New Hampshire to NYC

From Maine we headed south to New Hampshire.  We arrived in Dover just in time to have a late supper and a fabulous visit with a special family we knew from church during our high school years.  The Vollnogles welcomed us into their home and even their daughter (Caroline) and her family and also their daughter-in-law (Danielle) were able to come over as well.  We had a great evening catching up with their lives….we haven’t seen them in almost 20 years!  Our kids really enjoyed meeting all of them too….especially Ben who got to play with two of their grandchildren and Abby who loved holding their newest grandbaby.  We left there feeling so thankful that we had been able to see them; they are such a kind family and were a big encouragement to us.


Lance and I with Terry and Sandy Vollnogle–a very sweet couple

The next day, June 8th, we drove to a different campground that’s not too far from Plymouth, Massachusetts.  It was a sprawling place with a huge playground and baseball field right near our campsite.


Lance and the kids played baseball with some other kids in the campground on the field behind our site

On Thursday we went into Plymouth to see the sights.  We started with a stop at Plymouth Rock.  It was fun to see, but we didn’t need to spend much time there so then we walked over to the Mayflower II.  It’s a replica of the Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims from England to America.  We went on the ship and saw where the Pilgrims would have lived for those 6 weeks at sea…not much room for about 100 people.  There were people who were acting the part of pilgrims so it was fun to talk with them and ask questions about their voyage.


Sam and Elise by Plymouth Rock


Here we are in front of the Mayflower II


Elise and Rose checking out the living quarters the Pilgrims had while they crossed the ocean

On Friday we went to Plimouth Plantation (no, I’m not spelling that wrong, it’s how they spelled it back then so that’s what the plantation is called today) which was a lot of fun.  Our favorite part was the small village that was built to be as much like Plimouth in the 1600’s as they can get.  Even the layout of the buildings was according to what they have found in journals and other documents from that time.  The small houses were furnished with what they believed the pilgrims would have been able to take with them from England.  Ben had a lot of fun chasing chickens and feeding hay to the cows.  Just like at the Mayflower II there were people dressed as settlers all throughout the village who stayed in character the whole time.  Sam and Elise had fun learning a card game from two such men while we visited one of the houses.  We all had a great day learning about the Pilgrim’s lives….and also left there extra thankful that our beds aren’t made of straw, we have a refrigerator to keep food fresh and I don’t have to milk a cow for milk every morning!


Plimouth Plantation


Some of the cute gardens behind the houses


Elise in one of the small houses in the village


Ben was intrigued by this outdoor oven….he thought it was a little room and he had fun opening and closing the door


Rosemary was a little wary of this cow’s horns


One of the houses had this big Bible in the desk


Sam and Elise learning how to play cards….Pilgrim style


The beautiful view of the village and the ocean beyond

Saturday, June 11th, was one of my favorite days!  We went whale watching in a boat our of Plymouth harbor.  After about an hour out on the water we saw a Humpback whale feeding on the schools of fish near the surface of the ocean.  It was so amazing to watch this huge graceful animal come up out of the water and then slide back down with the huge tail disappearing at the end.  Ben loved keeping an eye out for him and Rose kept yelling out “shish!”  for fish.  The boat we were on had a binder with pictures of all of the named whales they have seen, so after they got a good look at the tail markings they could tell us that this whale’s name is “Shuffleboard”.  We stayed in that area for around 15 minutes and just watched him come and go…sometimes quite close to the boat.  Then the captain took us farther out to look for more whales.  The next kind we spotted were Minke whales and we saw 5-6 of those.  They look similar to dolphins, but are a bit bigger.  We also got to see a Finback whale, which are not as commonly found.  The Finback was the largest of all the whales we got to watch, but they don’t come up out of the water as much as Humpbacks so it was a little bit harder to tell.  After almost 4 hours on the water we got back to the harbor.  We really enjoyed our whale watching experience!


The kids are ready for their whale watching adventure!


The back of the Humpback Whale


and the huge tail!!


Ben and Rose looking for more “shish”!!

The evening before this we had watched the movie, Monumental, with Kirk Cameron.  We found it very interesting, especially when he is researching the founding fathers (Washington, Franklin, Adams and so on) and their faith.  It was awesome to me to see just how much they valued the Bible and based their decisions on God’s Word.  Did you know that the first Bibles printed in the United States were actually funded by Congress and were printed to be given to the schools?  Anyway….in the movie he talks about the recipe for success with forming a new country and having it thrive the way America has. It is based on God’s Word and training up your children to know and love God and from that springs morality, civil law and liberty.  The monument is in Plymouth so we went to see that after our whale watching trip.  It was a very impressive monument and if you are ever in the area I would encourage you to check it out.


Lance and I by the monument dedicated to the Pilgrims who came for civil and religious liberty


On Sunday we went into Boston for the day.  We started with Boston Commons and seeing the state capital building there.  Then we had tickets for a Duck Boat ride so we boarded that and enjoyed our tour of the city that way.  We were able to see lots of historic buildings that are on the Freedom Trail and also learn about the city’s growth over the years.  The most fun part, though, was when we went right down into the Charles River.  When we were out in the water and away from any obstacles then the captain let kids drive the boat.  Joe, Sam, Elise and Ben all gave it a try and were having a good time…..Rose, on the other hand, started screaming and crying as soon as we put her down in the seat.  She did a little better when I sat with her, but still didn’t love it.  After the duck boat ride we did some more walking and saw the graveyard where many important people are buried, like Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  After that it was time for some frozen yogurt and then we drove to Rhode Island.  We saw the capital building in Providence and camped for the night, but didn’t stop to see any other of the sights there.


The kids and I ready for the duck boat ride….all except Rose who was fast asleep on my shoulder.  



In the Charles River now!


Sam, Elise, Ben and Rose all got a turn to drive


A plaque for Paul Revere


The kids in front of Samuel Adam’s grave


The cemetery, the tall monument in the middle is where Benjamin Franklin’s parents are buried.


On Monday we went to Mystic, Connecticut and visited the Mystic Seaport.  What a fun day exploring the buildings and learning about what life in a whaling and fishing village would have been like 200 years ago.  Abby and Elise had a good time with the navigational scavenger hunt which took them to many of the different buildings.  We all enjoyed our horse-drawn wagon ride through the village and it was a good time to take a break from walking for a little while.  Ben and Rose loved the little children’s museum there and didn’t want to leave when they were closing up for the day.  All in all, we had a great time there and wished we had been able to get there even earlier in the day so we could have seen that much more.  We stayed in Connecticut that night and then headed for New York City the next morning.


Joe in the Mystic Seaport village


Rose and Joe


Ben and Rose playing with the wooden boats at the water table in the activity barn


Elise using a pulley system to pull herself up off the floor


Sam got to sit up by the driver on our wagon ride


Joe, Lance and Rose in front of the only original surviving whaling vessel.


Captain Rosemary at the helm


The bunk area for the crew….Rose is in one bed and you can just see Ben’s leg in the one next to her


Ben checking things out below deck


Ben on the ship’s deck


Ben and Rose loved playing in the children’s museum, especially cooking up soup and lobster in the little kitchen


All of the kids on one of the playground boats they have there

We had a hard time deciding what to do about lodging in NYC.  There aren’t exactly a lot of campgrounds in the city….and even if there were; can you imagine trying to pull the camper through traffic there????  No thank you!!!  We ended up using almost all of our hotel points and staying at a Marriott Courtyard hotel right downtown for three nights.  We were so glad we did, even though having all 8 of us sleep in one small room was tough sometimes, it was worth it to be so close to everything.

Tuesday evening, after we settled into the hotel, we went for a walk through Times Square and had some dinner.  Then it was lights out….we knew we would have a busy day on Wednesday.


This is in Times Square after we ate supper….everyone was a little more cheerful with a full tummy!

The next morning we got going quickly (well, quickly for OUR family!!).  We had bought hop on/ hop off bus passes for all of us so we caught a bus and took that to the 9/11 Memorial.  We walked around the fountains and headed to the Tribute Center.  I thought I had bought tickets to the 9/11 Museum, but it was for this Tribute Center instead and it ended up being really neat.  We started by checking out the displays inside and reading about that day and then we went on a walking tour of the memorial.  We had two tour guides, one had been living and working in the city when it happened and one who lost a loved one and watched some of it happen.  It was very interesting, but also sad to hear their stories.


The 9/11 Memorial


Around each of the sides are the names of those who died.  When it is one of the victim’s  birthday the museum puts a white rose on the name.


Abby and Rosemary near the memorial

After that we walked to Battery Park and took the boat to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.  Abby, Sam and Elise all did the Junior Ranger program there and we walked around the statue and enjoyed a great view of the city.  When we got back downtown we went to a great pizza place near Times Square and then headed back to the hotel.


The beautiful view from the boat on our way to Liberty Island


Our family in front of the Statue of Liberty.


Elise was very proud of her newest Junior Ranger badge!


On different trips to NYC Lance and I have gotten our girls’ names painted by artists set up on the sidewalks.  This time we were on the lookout to get the same done for Rosemary.  We had fun watching this man skillfully turn little animals into the letters of her name.

Thursday morning Lance and I were able to attend the show, The View.  We were given the opportunity by a good friend back home who is good friends with Paula Faris who is on The View.  It was fun to see how a show like that happens and a little bit of the behind the scenes.  Lance and I have pretty conservative viewpoints (and if you’ve ever watched the show you know that most of the ladies on there are more liberal minded) so sometimes we probably stuck out like a sore thumb when we weren’t clapping our approval of comments made, but we had a good time and were super glad we were able to go.


Lance and I ready for some “hot topics”!!

While we were gone Joe and Abby were babysitting the other kids in the hotel room.  When we got back to them we all left together for the Empire State building.  We went to the observation deck and had fun checking out the city from a bird’s eye view.  Unfortunately, Sam wasn’t feeling very well and Ben and Rose really needed naps so Lance took those three back to the hotel after that.


Joe on top of the Empire State building


Just keeping it real… this part of the trip Ben and Rose are getting pretty sick of museums, crowded cities and confined areas…..not the most toddler friendly part of our trip!

Joe, Abby, Elise and I walked towards Central Park, but stopped on the way at Sprinkles Cupcakes for a little treat.  Their red velvet cupcakes are delicious!!  When we got to Central Park we went for a carriage ride through the park.  We had been walking a lot so we enjoyed seeing the park while resting our feet a little. The carriage ride brought us by fountains, over bridges and past numerous statues, including the Balto statue which was a favorite since our kids like that movie.


Yummmmm, mine was the red velvet cupcake and Joe’s was the carrot cake cupcake


Abby and Elise during our carriage ride


Here’s the four of us in the pretty carriage


After the ride the driver gave Elise a carrot to feed to JoJo the horse

That evening Lance and I had a fabulous date out on the town.  We started with going to see Les Miserables.  I had heard of it, but was not familiar with the story line so it was new to me.  It was incredible; we both really loved the show.  After that we went out for a nice dinner at Carmine’s.  We had a delicious Italian dinner there and then walked around Times Square a little while before heading back to the hotel.


I loved a night out at the theater with my hubby!

The next morning Lance helped check something off Elise’s bucket list…..he took Joe, Abby and Elise for a ride on the subway.  She was so excited about that and said it was one of her favorite things about NYC.  They went to Brooklyn, changed trains and then came back to the hotel.  Not such a treat, I’m sure, for most in Manhattan, but it sure made Elise smile!

When they got back from the subway we checked out of the hotel.  It was time to say goodbye to New York City and head back to camper life.  We enjoyed out few days in The Big Apple, but it felt good to get back “home” too.

Pennsylvania to Maine

When we left Michigan on Wednesday, May 25th, we headed to Pennsylvania.

Our first place of interest was the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  We saw the crash site of the plane and wandered through the visitor’s center there to read the displays and timeline of the events on September 11, 2001.  Sam and Elise both did the Junior Ranger program there and earned their badges.  It was a sobering place to be.  Even though our kids don’t remember any of what happened that day (I was 6 months pregnant with Joe then), both Lance and I have vivid memories of the terrorist attacks and what we were doing on that morning.


The kids on the overlook at the Flight 93 Memorial.  


This is what you see from the overlook.  The plane crashed in the field behind those two white pillars.


Joe reading the stories from those who remember


Ben looking at some of the very few things recovered from the crash site.


Lance checking out the display dedicated to the military, fire and police personnel who responded that day and in the days afterwards.

That Thursday we also celebrated a very special birthday in our family.  Sam turned 9 and even though we spent a good part of the day driving we still tried to make it special.  He chose to eat at Pizza Hut for supper and a couple of days later the celebration continued with a trip to a drive-in theater with Lance and the other older kids.


Sam is a pretty cool kid who is a great big brother and a super funny guy!  We sure do love him!


Time for some cake!!

We camped near Gettysburg.  With it being Memorial Day weekend the campground was full and it was fun to be around so many other families.  Sam and Elise especially had fun making friends with other kids their age.  We enjoyed the pool, gaga ball pit and outdoor movie that they had that weekend.    On Friday evening we met a college friend of Lance’s and his family at an Amish dinner buffet.  Elise and their daughter hit it off and were chatting like old friends pretty quickly!

On Saturday, May 28th, we went to the Appalachian Trail Museum and park that was only about 10 minutes away from our campground.  The park is pretty much the half-way point of the trail that stretches from Maine to Georgia.  We checked out the small museum and walked a {very tiny} section of the Appalachian Trail.  We also met some hardcore climbers who are chipping away at their goal of hiking the whole thing by doing sections of the trail when they can get the time off work.  They told us that they had already seen a couple of rattlesnakes on the trail that morning….that’s enough to keep me on the pavement!!


Inside the museum at the Appalachian Trail halfway point


See???  We hiked the {tiniest section possible} Appalachian Trail!!

On Sunday we went to Gettysburg to see the battlefields and learn more about the history of that town.  We started with going to the short movie that they show at the visitor’s center about the battle and why it was such an important one in the Civil War.  Then we went to the Cyclorama which was very impressive.  You are in a circular room with the walls being covered by a 40 foot high canvas painting of the battle.  Then they added artifacts and plants to blend with the painting so sometimes you couldn’t even tell where they met.  It really looks like you are in the middle of the battlefield.


Sam checking out the Cyclorama


It was so amazing to see the painting and the artifacts mingled together!


Found this cute little soldier in the gift shop!

After seeing what we wanted to inside of the visitor’s center we headed outside.  We had bought an audio guide to listen to in our car while we drove around the park.  It came with a booklet to follow along with and was really informative about what side was where and how the battle progressed over the three days that it took place.  We would stop the guide whenever we got to an area that we wanted to explore further.  Lance and I were both fascinated with all of the information and sometimes you could almost picture what would have been going on back then.  At first everyone was attentive and interested (except Ben and Rose), but after three hours of driving around  the kids were less than entertained and it was time to get some supper and head home.  If you are ever headed to Gettysburg let us know and you can borrow our disc set if you want to!


Monuments were everywhere to mark the spots where specific regiments fought and where certain battles took place.


The fighting that took place on this hill, Little Round Top, was very important to the battle as a whole.  You can see that whoever held this ground definitely held the high ground.  Here’s Joe and Ben climbing around on the giant boulders.


Here’s Rosemary…..we love taking pictures like this of her, but don’t worry….there’s always someone holding onto her, you just can’t see them!  Someday she will look back at her scrapbook of this trip and think, “Wow!  Did they take any pictures of me when I wasn’t dangerously perched on top of a cliff, on top of a giant rock or up in a tree???”


Ben loved the cannons!

On Monday Lance went into town to have a work day and the kids and I stayed around the campground and enjoyed the pool.  The weather for that weekend was HOT and steamy, low 90s, so the pool felt very refreshing.

On Tuesday we packed up and headed to Harrisburg, the capital, to see the capital building.  We were quick about it…our highlight of the day was getting to Hershey which was after the capital.  When we got to Chocolate World we started out by taking a short tour on how the company began and the chocolate making process.  The tour is free and is a fun little introduction to Hershey.  After that we had purchased tickets for the Chocolate Tasting activity.  It was a fun presentation on the cocoa bean and the different kinds of chocolate.  We each had a bag that had four different chocolates in it and a small cup with some raw cocoa bits in it.  They went over how you are supposed to go through four different steps when tasting chocolate.  Look at it, smell it, listen to the sound as you break it (is it a soft break or a hard snap?), then taste it by letting a piece melt on your tongue.  We thought it was fun and definitely had our favorites and not so favorites.  Some of us (Ben and Rose) found the four steps to be too laborious and went right to step number four every time!  Well, after we were done with that we bought some Hershey chocolate from the gift shop and were back on our way.


We were excited to see what was inside this yummy smelling building!


Rose and Joe learning how they make and package the different chocolates at the Hershey factory.


Chocolate tasting….Ben just couldn’t wait any longer!

On Wednesday we entered Vermont.  We were all excited about that because up until this point every state we had been in was one that at least one of us had been in before, even if it was just driving through.  Vermont was a brand new state to all of us!  We thought it was beautiful and couldn’t stop marveling at all of the green….everywhere you looked were just more and more trees.  I can see why it’s a destination in the autumn to see the colors of the leaves as they are changing.  We stopped for a picnic at a park near Bennington and really enjoyed a few hours there.  It was a gorgeous spring day and we had the park to ourselves.  There was a huge playground and acres of thick green grass.  We left the park and started our drive to the campground.  When we were almost there we spotted a Moose grazing just 20 feet or so from the side of the road.  That was pretty exciting!!  We stayed that night at Lake Champagne Campground which is just south of Montpelier, the capital.  We really liked it there, Sam especially.  He loves water and our site wasn’t very far from the large pond they have there.  He spent a good amount of time with his slingshot shooting rocks into the water and just looking around.  After we set up the camper and had a quick supper we went to see the capital building.  It was a very pretty one and a great night to be exploring Vermont.


Willow Park was a beautiful spot to have lunch and to stretch our legs for a while. The giant wooden castle/playground is just down the hill.  The monument in the background is for the Battle of Bennington, which was in the Revolutionary War.


Joe and Rose at Lake Champagne campground.  What a pretty sky!!


A great night for seeing the capital in Vermont….again, that sky….it was such a bright blue, no filter needed!  And look at those three love each other….it does happen occasionally!!


We ended the day with a gorgeous sunset!

On Thursday we had a long day of driving, but it was worth it!  We made our way into Maine (another first for us!) and stopped in Augusta to see the capital.  Then we were back in the car to try to make it to our campground near Acadia before dark.  We just made it and were ready for bed after such a tiring day.  It’s not easy for anyone to keep two toddlers entertained for 7 hours in the car!!  (Disclaimer….we have been using the movie player in the car A LOT more often lately!!)   We stayed at a KOA just a few miles outside of Acadia National Park.  Our campground was right on the bay and was very nice.

On Friday, June 3rd, we spent our first day in Acadia National Park.  We started out by stopping by the visitor’s center so that Sam, Elise and Abby could all pick up their junior ranger booklets.  Then we decided to drive the park loop road until we got to a place we wanted to explore.  We really enjoyed our drive on the curvy road through the forests and along the rocky coast.  We stopped at Jordan Pond and went for a hike near the water.  Then we went to the Jordan Pond restaurant to try some of their famous popovers.  From there we finished the loop and had quite a treat when a doe and two very small fawns came out from the woods to cross the road.  We all oohhed and ahhed as they tentatively walked on their spindly little legs to the road and then changed their minds and turned back to the woods.   After the park we headed into Bar Harbor.  Lance and Joe wanted to try some Maine Lobster so they did that and we got some ice cream at a little place downtown.


All six of them when we were about to begin our hike


Elise loved looking for pretty rocks in the water


It was a foggy day, but still so pretty so see Jordan Pond and the bubble hills


Sam, the tough man!


Crossing back and forth over the rocks…..they loved it!


Our family on one of the many bridges in the park.  John D. Rockefeller Jr. had 45 miles of carriage roads and bridges built between 1913 and 1940.  They are too narrow for vehicles, but perfect for taking walks and riding horses on.


Trying Popovers at the restaurant near Jordan Pond


Another treat in downtown Bar Harbor

On Saturday we went back into the park and saw quite a bit more.  Our first stop was Thunder Bay.  It’s a very rocky part of the coast where there is a cave at the water level and when the tide gets to a certain point the water going in and out of the cave sounds like thunder and can spray water up to 40 feet.  It was very neat to watch the water swirling around there even though the waves weren’t big enough that day for the thunder sound.  After that we went to a ranger program where they had some spotting scopes set up so that you could try to see the Peregrine Falcons and their four babies.  When we were there the adults were out looking for food and the babies must have settled into the nest, we couldn’t see them.  From there we drove to Otter Cove in the park.  The day before, when we had gone past it, the tide had been out and it had looked like a really fun place to explore, but we couldn’t find parking so we had kept going.  On Saturday when we stopped the tide was much higher than the day before, but it was still a great place to look around.  Sam loved climbing the rocks and looking for pretty shells and stones.  Our last stop that day was the visitor’s center so that Abby, Sam and Elise could turn in their books and get their junior ranger badges.


Rose, Ben, Abby and Elise watching the water swirling in Thunder Hole


Elise, our little rock climber


Trying to get a glimpse of the falcons with the spotting scopes


Sam ready to explore Otter Cove

Back at the campground our kids were having a blast too!  With the sites going right up to the bay, there was a lot to explore, especially when the tide was out.  Sam, Elise, Ben and Rose loved taking some buckets down by the water and looking for crabs and any other little creatures they could find.  They even made some friends from another campsite who shared their passion for crab hunting!  Sam spent hours with the other two boys climbing the rocks and filling their buckets with crabs.  Then they would pick them up and one after another and marvel at their finds.  They were showing me the crabs and telling me all about them….which ones were boys, which ones were girls, which girls were laying eggs, which ones might pinch me, and so on and so on!  It was fun to see them having such a great time!


Ben and Rose playing on the stony beach with their sand toys


Ben was so excited about the shells he found


Sam was pretty excited about his finds too…here he is with a big lobster shell

Sunday is when our trip took a little detour from the plans we had made.  We packed up in the morning and prepared to drive to New Hampshire, but when we were all in the car and ready to pull away the camper wouldn’t budge.  After looking things over Lance found that a metal bracket that’s part of the frame under the camper had broken.  Well, it’s hard to find an available welder on Sunday so we settled back into our site and waited for Monday.  God sent a very interesting man our way on Monday who fixed the camper pretty quickly……but then when we went to pick it up we stopped to put gas in the car and guess what!?!?  The gas just sprayed all over the pavement!  Yep, that’s right…our gas tank was busted!  So we picked up the camper to bring it back to the campground and then on Tuesday morning Lance brought the car back and that same man fixed it up for us.  We had a couple days of frustration, but were once again reminded that God has perfect timing.  If that bracket had broken while going down the highway, it could have been dangerous and with the gas tank….at least we already had a guy we now knew who could fix it.  So that’s the bright side!!  Along with the fact that there are definitely worse places to be stranded than the beautiful coast of Maine!!

On our last night in Maine we went for a family walk along the rocky coast.  The tide was out so we all had a great time venturing out to places that you normally don’t see since they are under water.  We explored the tide pools and turned over rock after rock.  Then we watched the beautiful sunset and headed back to our camper.  We finally ended up leaving Maine on Tuesday, June 7th.


Joe and Rosemary


Sam holding a small crab he found under a rock


Lance and Rose 


Joe, Abby, Sam, Elise and Ben are all in this picture.  They loved exploring!


Elise found this tiny starfish on the side of a rock.  I put my finger by it so we could remember how small it really was.


No stone left unturned….or at least it felt that way!


Our last sunset in Maine


Atlanta to……Michigan?!?!?

On Saturday, April 2nd, we drove toward Atlanta, Georgia to see the capital, but on the way we had a fun detour stop in Knoxville, Tennessee.  We met another sweet family from home at a park there and had a great time catching up with the DeBoers.  Abby and their oldest are good friends and they very much enjoyed catching up for a couple of hours.  The rest of the kids all had a great time on the playground.  After leaving there we drove the rest of the way to Atlanta.


That’s a lot of kids!!

On Sunday, April 3rd, we went to the Georgia capital building and then to The World of Coca-Cola.  Once inside we were all handed bottles of Coke or Diet Coke and we could keep getting more which just blew our kids’ minds!  We walked through a bottling area to see how Coke is mixed, bottled and packaged.  We also saw the vault where the secret recipe for Coke is stored and we saw the giant Coke polar bear….Ben was so excited he ran up to him before we could stop him and totally photo-bombed another family having their picture taken with him!  The best part of the tour was at the end when we entered the tasting room.  It was a very big room with many, many drink dispensers with over 200 varieties of CocaCola from all over the world.  You could try whatever you wanted and drink as much as you wanted.  Our kids were gone in five different directions (not six, but only because Rose was confined in the stroller!) and we didn’t get them all back until they had taste tested to their heart’s content.  Ben just stood by one fountain machine and filled a cup over and over with regular Coke….he didn’t even drink it all, he was just so intrigued with the drink dispenser and being allowed to use it.   We never would have guessed how high this activity would rank on our kids list of trip favorites….apparently we underestimated the power of “all you can drink pop”!!


Walking around downtown Atlanta on our way to The World of Coke


Everybody’s happy when drinking a nice cold pop!  These are the cute little pops they hand out for free when you enter.  They just keep going around with baskets of them so when one’s gone it’s on to the next!


Rose didn’t know if she liked the taste….but she really liked the bottles!


Joe, Abby, Elise and Ben in front of the vault door


Sam was intrigued with the robots bottling the Coke


Joe and Sam near the end of the tour


Ben learned real quick what that button did….and he wasn’t leaving anytime soon!

From Atlanta we drove to Nashville, Tennessee.  We got there on Sunday night and settled in at a campground outside of town.  On Monday Lance worked so the kids and I spent the day doing laundry and playing on the campground playground.  That night Lance and I went out for a date.  We went out for dinner at a place called Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant where they have up and coming country singers perform every evening.  We had a great time, but I didn’t convert Lance to a country music fan yet!  The next day we all went to see the capital building.  The capital was fine, but what really caught our attention was the building being torn down a block away.  The boys (especially Ben) were mesmerized…it was pretty interesting to watch, I have to admit.  As people went about their day we were the dorks buying hot dogs for lunch from a street vendor and sitting down on a curb to watch the giant machines work!


Rose enjoyed her hot dog from the street vendor


It was fun to watch the giant claw rip off chunks of the cement building

After Nashville we drove back to Lexington, Kentucky.  We had intended to go horseback riding.  It was a pretty rainy couple of days so we didn’t do that, but we did just enjoy a couple of nights at a nice campground out in the country.  We have stayed at a fair share of campgrounds and this one had the best playground I’ve seen!  Our site was right near it and I loved being able to watch the kids play right outside the window.


Rose loved the little wooden train!  You can see our “house” in the background!


Ben loved the ramps and bridges….he kept saying “Last time.  Last time.  Last time”  and then he would go up again and again (he might not know what “last time” means!)

On Thursday we drove into West Virginia and then on Friday, March 8th, we went to see the capital in Charleston.  It is a beautiful building and we decided to go inside and take a tour.  Things were pretty quiet in the building so we had our tour guide all to ourselves and could tour the building at a slower pace.  She was a wealth of knowledge and was very patient with all of our questions.  We learned all about the priceless materials and artifacts inside the capital and how they built the building during the great depression, but because of smart money management, they did it without going into debt.  After seeing where the house and senate convene (and learning that they have the youngest delegate in history, an 18 year old who ran right after high school and is attending college while serving her term!!) we ended with the Governor’s formal office and had fun taking some pictures there.


The gorgeous crystal chandelier in the rotunda


Elise for Governor!!!

After the capital visit we drove a little more east to Beckley, West Virginia to visit a coal mine and mining museum.  Rose and I hung out in the museum and read a lot about mining while Lance and the other kids took a train ride into a mine and had a tour.  After they were done we went to the small children’s museum right next door and played there for a while.  Even though it was super small, it had some very fun exhibits and we had fun there until they closed.


They had this fun area where you set up little houses and farm animal and then get the tops spinning through it to knock them over and see what a tornado could do.


We had WAY too much fun with this mirror!!

Saturday we left West Virginia and drove into Ohio.  We stayed one night near Columbus, Ohio to see the state capital and then drove on to Cincinnati.  We stayed a couple of nights at a very nice campground there while Lance had some work to do at one of his customers. The campground was not one with lots of bells and whistles, but one that has large sites with lots of green grass and tall trees and is very clean.  It is part of their city parks so it has miles of bike paths and trails to explore.  Unfortunately for us it rained a lot while we were there so we couldn’t take advantage of the trails, but if we ever camp in the area again we will definitely stay there.


Our peaceful campsite near Cincinnati


From there we drove to Columbus, Indiana where Lance had another customer to see.  While he was working on Wednesday, April 13th, I took Abby, Sam, Elise and Ben to the really cool children’s museum they have downtown.  It’s called Kidscommons and the kids and I had visited there once before a few years before when Lance needed to get some work done in Columbus.  The most unique exhibit is the giant toilet that kids can “flush” themselves down.  It’s part of a playhouse designed to teach kids how different things work in a house, like plumbing, heating and cooling, appliances and so on.  There are lots of other neat areas to explore there also.  We happened to be there on a school day and for most of the time we were the only visitors there.  It was so nice having the place to ourselves and it made it a ton easier to keep track of where Ben was.  Sam loved the circuit work table….he literally spent more than 2 hours putting different wires together and experimenting with what would happen.  He loved making the helicopter spin or the doorbell ring just by switching up the combinations of wires.  Ben loved the turtles, the train table and the architect workshop area where you can draw with a cad type program (I know…he’s 2 ½….maybe we have a budding architect on our hands?!?!)  The girls especially loved the art studio where you could use any of the materials they had on hand to create artwork.  We had so much fun that afternoon, if you are ever in the Columbus, Indiana area with kids I would definitely recommend visiting Kidscommons!!


Abby, Sam and Elise getting flushed down the giant toilet!


Elise and Ben painting with watercolors


Abby and Elise both had lots of fun with the hot plate stations where you could put a piece of paper and then draw with crayons on top while they melt.


This was Sam’s favorite spot in the museum, by far!!


Ben the computer whiz!


We all loved the bubble room


I’m not sure why….but Abby and Elise are real experts at playing house with a camper!!

From Columbia we headed…….north!  To Michigan!!!  My sister and I had been planning a surprise party for our parents’ 60th birthdays and the party was set for April 15th.  My mom and dad had no clue that we were coming home for a visit….in fact, I had to do some major lying to them in the time leading up to it because they knew we were in Indiana and they wanted to come visit us.  After some of our kids got sick with a “fake” stomach bug they decided not to meet up with us.  We knew that if they knew we would see them in a few days they wouldn’t want to drive all that way to see us. We got back to Zeeland on Thursday and the party on Friday was a huge success, they were VERY surprised!!  On that Saturday we moved our camper to their driveway and enjoyed the visit……..which lasted MUCH longer than we had planned.  We knew that our camper needed a few repairs and had already scheduled them with the dealer, what we hadn’t anticipated was how long it would take for them to fix them and what else would go wrong… car repairs because of funny noises and a trailer hitch that broke leaving our camper just an inch or so from the ground.  Well, God has perfect timing and even though it was frustrating at times, we were very thankful that everything happened when it did.  At least we had a great place to stay (my parent’s house) while all of the repairs were taking place and at least the hitch hadn’t broken when we were going 65 down a highway somewhere in Pennsylvania….that would have been pretty bad.

We had a great visit home and loved seeing friends and family.  The kids had fun seeing their school friends and even visiting their schools a few different times.  It was also a great time to catch up on some things like doctor appointments and enrolling the kids for school in the fall.


This happened A LOT while we were staying there!!!  A tractor ride with Grandpa is always awesome!!


Ben getting some banjo lessons from his Grandpa Kornoelje


This was a BIG DEAL…..Rose finally started walking!!!  We had been in Michigan about a week when she made the switch from her cute and crazy crawl to a toddling walk!


The kids with my Grandpa and Grandma Wolters


And here we are with my Grandpa and Grandma Haveman


Me and my kiddos on Mother’s Day…love them tons!!  As an added bonus…we got to be in Michigan over Tulip Time and I was able to Dutch Dance with my mom a couple of times on Mother’s Day!


I LOVE dressing up my babies in Dutch costumes!


Ben had a blast wearing his Dutch costume and even dancing with Grandma one night.  He loved the sound his footsteps made while he wore the wooden shoes so much that he walked around in them the whole two hours we were downtown!


While we were home we even tackled a couple of house projects.  Here’s the wrecking crew!  Joe, Josh, Isaac, Sam and Andrew (not in the picture) worked very hard for a Saturday.  They tore down our old fence and even used a jackhammer to break apart some of our sidewalk and load up broken concrete.  They earned their pay that day!

Since the camper issues were taking longer than we had anticipated we decided to take a day trip to Lansing, the capital of Michigan, and even took a tour of the capital building.


Lance and the kids inside the rotunda in the capital


It’s gorgeous inside!  Did you know that the Michigan capital building was the first state capital to have a dome?  It was modeled after the U.S. Capital building in Washington D.C.

We hit the road again on Wednesday, May 25th, and are heading east to finish out the trip with exploring the New England states.  We are excited to see new things and learn new things, but we are also looking forward to rolling back into Zeeland for good in July!

As a side note…..if you want to follow our trip on Instagram just follow Lance, Joe and myself.  @lancekornoelje, @joekorny and @susanekorn


From Florida to The Smokies

We left the Florida Keys on Wednesday, March 16th and made our way north to Sarasota, Florida.  We stayed at a fun campground there called Sun’n’Fun for a couple of nights.  While there we were excited to meet up with Lance’s cousin and his wife and also his aunt and uncle who spend their winters near there on Anna Maria Island.  Ross (Lance’s cousin) is an expert Pickle Ball player and Lance and Joe got to watch him in a match he played at the campground.  Later that afternoon the whole family went to the pool and had fun visiting with Ross and Monica, Uncle Russ and Aunt Chris and Monica’s extended family.  The kids had a great time swimming in the giant pool on such a hot, sunny day.  Later we took a drive to Venice beach to look for shark teeth, but left there empty handed….much to Sam’s disappointment.  We had some dinner and then drove out to Anna Maria Island to end the day with another family visit.  We got to see Uncle Russ and Aunt Chris’ nice condo on the island and watch the sunset from the beach.  Lance and the boys took off after that with Ross and Uncle Russ for some pickle ball lessons.  They had a great time learning the rules and playing some practice games….now they are hooked!  The girls and I went for a walk with Monica and Aunt Chris to get some ice cream.  The boys had the healthier end to the evening, but ours sure was tasty!!!  We said good bye to Ross and Monica and Uncle Russ and Aunt Chris after that, but we sure did enjoy our short visit with them.  Thank you for the hospitality and pickle ball lessons, we hope to see more of you when we get back from our trip!


Joe and Elise with Uncle Russ

On Saturday we drove to Jacksonville and spent a couple nights there. We had intended to only stop for the night and then keep moving, but the campground we ended up at was so much fun we stayed an extra night.  The kids had a blast on the little lake there that had lots on inflatables on it.

On Monday we said good bye to Florida. We spent six weeks in the Sunshine State and enjoyed every minute, but it was time to see what Georgia had to show us.  Our first stop was Fort Frederica National Monument on Saint Simons Island, which was on our way to Savannah.  We had such a great time at the fort.  Their junior ranger program is fabulous!  The kids each received a satchel with different tools, maps and a workbook to use in solving puzzles and completing the scavenger hunt.  It was an excellent way to explore the fort and learn about life there in the 1700’s.


This crazy guy was crazy happy to be out of the car and enjoying the spring weather!!


Elise and Abby ready to begin the scavenger hunt at Fort Frederica


Joe and Ben walking to the fort ruins…what good buddies they are even though there’s 11 1/2 years between them!


Ben, Sam and Joe on one of the old cannons


I love to see the Spanish moss swaying in the breeze


Sam…one of the newest junior rangers of Fort Frederica National Monument


Lance and Rose


The visitors center was a really fun place.  There were colonial games they could play and a large chest of clothes they could try on.  Ben loved the soldier clothes, but he’s too silly to pull off that somber soldier look!

We got to Savannah that Monday evening. The next day we took a trolley ride around the city.  It was a fun way to learn the history of the city and some fun stories and trivia too.  Lance and I enjoyed the trolley ride along with the four older kids, but I don’t think we will do that again with Ben and Rose….they got too wiggly and (believe it or not) didn’t really care about the history of Savannah!  I loved the beautiful historic buildings and the many parks and squares where people can enjoy a little bit of green in the middle of the city.  After getting back to the trailer we took off for Charleston, South Carolina.  We arrived later that evening and set up camp in a KOA near the city.


Joe and Rose on the trolley ride


The kids and me on the trolley.  It was a fun way to see Savannah!

On Wednesday we went to Boone Hall Plantation. We had a little homeschool lesson on slavery in the south and also the Underground Railroad while driving there.  Then we learned more about the living conditions of slaves while at the plantation.  There was a row of sparsely furnished slave houses that you could go into that helped us understand what things would have been like 150 years ago.  We also took a tour of the plantation mansion.  We enjoyed seeing the beautiful house, but were a little disappointed that the tour only showed you four rooms and there was a lot more house left that you couldn’t see.  It was a gorgeous spring day and we wandered a little around the grounds too.  We saw a small field of cotton, horses grazing and the flower gardens.  In the end, it was a very nice day and we had fun, but we wouldn’t go back to that same plantation.  The kids (and us too) did learn a little more about slaves’ lives so all in all it was a success.  We stayed near Charleston for a couple more days and Lance and I even had the opportunity to go on a date night in the city. We had a nice evening walking downtown a little and through a street market before enjoying a delicious dinner.


It’s pretty impressive to drive up the driveway lined with these majestic oak trees.


Abby and Joe in front of the plantation house


Ben loved climbing on the trees


The row of slave houses


This one was set up as it might have looked for the slave’s church


Elise with her handful of cotton that she just picked


A quaint street in Charleston that Lance and I saw while walking around the city

On Saturday, March 26th, we drove to Columbia, South Carolina to see the capital.  It was a delightful day and the flowers were out in full bloom, especially the rhododendron and the azaleas.  The capital was one of the prettiest ones we’ve seen and across the street was an Episcopal church.  Some of the church members were decorating the inside and outside for Easter (which was the next day) and they welcomed us in to see.  The church was gorgeous, even without all of the Easter Lilies they were placing around the church.  The older gentleman who was sharing some interesting information with us about the church’s history was so sweet.  He told us about the stained glass windows and how they depicted Jesus’ life and also some of the Apostles.  He showed us what was original and what had been added on over the years since the church was built in 1846.  My favorite story that he told us was about the Civil War.  We had asked if the church had been damaged in the war and he said that no, it hadn’t because General Sherman, who was the general for the Union army was Episcopalian so he made sure to keep his cannons aimed in a different direction than the church.  When the Union army did enter Columbia, though, they sought out the First Baptist church.  They wanted to destroy it because that is where the unanimous vote for South Carolina to secede from the Union had taken place.  When they arrived at the church they were directed by the Baptist sexton to a church a few blocks away which happened to be the Methodist church.  So the army continued on to what they believed was the Baptist church and set fire to it…..problem was, they were mistaken and had actually just destroyed the Washington Street Methodist church.  The First Baptist church building survived the war just fine, but it did so because of a lie.  Anyway, I found the stories quite fascinating and I wished we could have stayed longer, but it was time to take off for Raleigh, North Carolina.


Spring has sprung in South Carolina!


Can you find the Rose hidden in the Azaleas??


Ben was having fun hiding in the flowers and chasing Robins!


Trinity Church, the church was established in 1812 and the building was erected in 1846


Some of the beautiful stained glass windows


And the beautiful sanctuary

In Raleigh we stayed at a campground outside of the city. The next morning we were looking forward to attending an Easter service at Southbridge Fellowship which is where a high school friend of Lance’s is the pastor.  A very unique thing about Southbridge is that they meet in a movie theater.  The nurseries and children’s classes were all in different theaters as well as the service.  They must have an army of volunteers each Sunday to set things up for church and then to have it all removed in time for the theater to open after lunch to show movies.  It was a great service remembering Jesus’ incredible sacrifice for us by dying on the cross and then also celebrating his glorious resurrection.

After church we stopped by the North Carolina state capital building. It looked very much like the one in Columbia, South Carolina, but it was a drizzly day so we weren’t able to enjoy exploring the outside like we had hoped.  From there we headed to dinner….no traditional ham dinner for us this year.  We headed to a Japanese Hibachi restaurant and had a fun meal there.  After dinner we picked up the camper and drove to Asheville, North Carolina.

We only stayed in Asheville for one night. On Monday Joe, Abby and I got to go to Biltmore Estate.  We did the self-guided tour and very much enjoyed it.  The mansion is very impressive with over 200 rooms (we weren’t allowed in all of them) and beautiful antique furnishings.  We wandered around the main floor with its impressive formal dining room, tapestry room and the library, which was my favorite room.  We went upstairs to see the bedrooms of the owner and his wife along with some of the many guest rooms, each with their own bathroom which was quite extraordinary for that time.  Then we headed to the basement where we saw the servant’s rooms, kitchen, bowling alley and indoor swimming pool.  We had a wonderful lunch in the restaurant they have in the former stables and then enjoyed a walk through some of the expansive gardens on the estate.  The spring bulbs were in bloom and we even stopped to smell the hyacinths on our way to the conservatory.  It was a great day and we left there very tired from all of the exploring.  I also really enjoyed hanging out with just Joe and Abby, it doesn’t happen very often that we can do that and I loved getting to talk and laugh with just them…..they’re pretty fun kids!


Me with my fellow tourists in front of the Biltmore Estate


The Library….it was so impressive and impossible to capture the grandeur in only one photo.


The cheerful conservatory…this is where I would spend many hours during the winter time if I lived there!


The formal dining room.  There was also an exhibit set up on wedding dresses in the movies so almost each room had a display set up showing some of the gowns that were from movies depicting times gone by.


The indoor swimming pool.


Some of the pretty spring flowers in bloom that we saw while walking around the gardens.


The stables turned restaurant where we had a fabulous lunch!

We left the Biltmore later in the afternoon and then we all headed out for Gatlinburg, Tennessee across the Smokey Mountains. It was a nice drive and we could see spring popping along the way in new leaves and flowering trees.  We got to our campground around supper time and right away the kids set off to explore and they were not disappointed.  There was a really cool playground, a hammock grove and a nice creek right behind our campsite.  Ben was especially enthralled with the creek….he loved to watch the water and throw rocks into it, one after another.  He was having so much fun that it was hard to get him to stop when it was dinner time.


The boys playing by the creek behind our campsite

On Tuesday, March 29th, we drove to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We headed right for Cade’s Cove which is an 11 mile one way loop through a valley and settlement from the 1800s.  As you drive you go past many historic buildings and the best part is that you can stop and go inside any of them that you want to.  We first came to an old log cabin that was about ¼ mile off of the road.  We parked the car to take a walk to the cabin and check out the inside.  After we did that we headed to the creek that was behind the cabin and this is where we spent a good chunk of time.  Lance and the older boys had lots of fun hauling logs and rocks to the water to build a dam, Abby and Elise pretended to be Indians in the woods, Rose crawled all around and got nice and dirty and Ben liked to see how many times he could cross the creek on logs and rocks without getting wet (not very many!!).  We finally left there and walked back to the car to continue our ride.  The next place we got to was a small church.  Lance and Rose stayed in the car since she needed a snack, but the other kids and I went into the church where they proceeded to pretend to have a mini church service.  After that we wandered through the cemetery behind the church and read many of the gravestones.  When we got back into the car after that we were all getting a little tired so we drove for a while and just looked from the car as we passed old homesteads and buildings.  We had been told to keep an eye out for bears, but we didn’t see any of those.  We did spot some wildlife though….a few deer in a field and also a wolf.  We were pretty excited about that!  After we had had a little rest we came upon a larger house and barn that looked pretty neat so we had to get out of the car there.  The house was a bit bigger than any we had seen yet on the loop with more rooms and a more spacious upstairs.  There were a couple small outbuildings and then a really cool cantilever barn where the kids climbed the ladder and explored the barn loft.  By this time it was supper time and we had two babies who hadn’t taken naps yet that day so we needed to leave the park and head for home, but it sure was a beautiful spring day to see the park.  I would love to go back one day, I’m sure there’s much more to see!


The first log cabin that we stopped at


Elise posing by the creek


Sam climbed a few trees!


Joe and Sam building the dam….Ben makes a great supervisor!


The small church we stopped at.  They actually still use the building today for special services.


Ben attending an impromptu church service


Joe and Ben in front of the Cantilever barn


Ben and Rosemary on a pretend ride in the wagon


Ben found a little outbuilding that was just his size


I had to post this pic….you can’t tell, but Sam is actually soaking wet!  This was just after he called to Lance and me “Hey Mom, hey Dad!!  Look!  Watch this!!”  and then he proceeded to use the branches over the creek as monkey bars until one broke at the most inopportune time and he landed on his back in the very cold water!  I’m so glad that he had told us to watch so that we happened to see it all.  It was hilarious and we were all (including Sam!) laughing about it for quite a while!

One thing Gatlinburg is not lacking are pancake restaurants.  It’s kind of a specialty there so of course we had to give one a try.  After reading some reviews we chose The Pancake Pantry and had a delicious breakfast.  Everyone enjoyed their pancakes and crepes.  After a hearty breakfast we found a place for Lance and Joe to get tattoos…..don’t worry…..they were henna tattoos!


Ben loved being near the creek whenever possible!


Breakfast at The Pancake Pantry


Joe’s henna tattoo of a cobra

On Wednesday we tried something new and a bit crazy!! We went to a place called the Outdoor Gravity Park and Lance and the four older kids all went for rides down a big hill in what looks like giant hamster balls.  They had a blast and would have done it again and again, but the line was too long so long we couldn’t wait around.  I got video of each of them rolling down the hill and Joe, Lance and Abby were also each holding a GoPro to capture what the ride was like from the inside.  It looked like a pretty crazy ride…next time I will join them!


Lance, Joe, Abby, Sam and Elise after their zorb rides down the hill.  They are wet because there is water inside the balls to keep them from getting too hot.

On Thursday we left the camper in the campground near Gatlinburg and drove a few hours north to Lexington, Kentucky. Our kids were under the impression that Lance had an unexpected meeting come up with a customer in Lexington so we all were going with him to enjoy a night in a hotel…..what was really happening had been in the works for weeks and we were excited to spring a great surprise on them!  We stopped in Frankfort, Kentucky to see the capital first and then drove to Lexington and checked into the hotel.  We ordered pizza and we waited…and waited….and waited.  Soon after the pizza came we had a knock on our hotel door and when the kids answered it the joyful squeals started!  Our very good friends, the Harrelson family, met up with us there for the night and we were all elated to see them.  Their four kids’ ages match up pretty perfectly for Joe, Abby, Sam and Ben.  After lots of hugs we had some pizza and then the kids split up….boys in one family’s room and girls in the other for their sleepovers.  Our four older kids didn’t get much sleep that night, but they definitely had their fill of fun!  The next day, after some breakfast and basketball and pickle ball and lots of chatting, we hugged our good byes, they resumed their spring break travels and we headed back to our camper in Gatlinburg.


Enjoying some playtime outside after their sleepovers


Elise and Gretta


Abby and Bekah


All of the kids together…we love spending time with the Harrelsons and have gone on trips together before.  When we are all together we call our group The Kornelsons!

One thing we had been looking forward to since the beginning of the trip last June was going zip lining in the Smoky Mountains. When it came right down to it I opted to stay with Ben and Rose….someone had to and, let’s be honest, it sounds a little scary!  Lance and the four olders had a great time on their zip lining adventure.


Abby ready for her turn


Sam zipping away!


They survived!!!

That concludes our adventures from Florida all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains….from there we headed to Atlanta and beyond.