Updated: Heartswell Adventures: Leg #5

Update: please see our updated itinerary below

Phew! I think this is the longest we’ve ever waited to start planning our next leg. We knew we wanted to head to the east coast, but kept changing how we were going to get there. First, it was through Wisconsin and into Canada. Then, since we didn’t know if I would have a passport in time, we thought about skipping Canada, and go through the US to New York. Now that I have my passport, we seemed to have settled on Michigan to Canada to New Hampshire. It’s an easy route that hits several places we want to visit. So here is our next leg!

Then we hit a little snag, called Labor Day weekend. It seems that everyone with an RV up here goes camping that weekend. We spent days trying to find anything we could get and finally settled on a place near Cleveland , which has altered our route, somewhat.

Updated Map: Decided to do a loop-de-loop
  • Wisconsin Dells:
      • Water Park capital of the United States, this place looks like a cute place to visit
  • St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota
      • Mall of America!
  • Madison, Wisconsin:
      • Found a place with a pool, so we plan to relax and prep for our long journey to Toronto
  • Chicago, Illinois:
      • We had a fun time in Chicago and it’s the perfect place to stop for the holiday weekend before we press on.

UPDATE: After our stop in Chicago, we learned that mini-man needs dental surgery. One of the benefits of our life is our schedule is very flexible. So we’ve altered our trip a bit to get us back to Chicago for the surgery

  • Cleveland, Ohio:
      • This is a six hour drive! We have a place to stop if we need to, but for now, we plan to drive the whole thing. It’s one of the only places we found a campsite for the holiday weekend. Kept this stop as it was still a holiday weekend and the only place we could find
    • New Stop: Cincinnati, Ohio

    New Stop: Cincinnati, Ohio
        • As long as we have to change our route, might as well swing by one of the best aquariums in the country

      New Stop: Louisville, Kentucky

        • A quick stop on our way to…

      New Stop: St. Louis, Missouri!!!

        • We made it back and we have a long list of things we want to do, including: the St. Louis Arch, City Museum, and a boat tour

      New Stop: Chicago #3

        • Back for mini-mans surgery

      New Stop: Kalamazoo, Michigan

        • Who wouldn’t want to stop here!?! Just to say you’ve been to Kalamazoo

      New Stop: Detroit

        • Quick stop before Canada
      • Toronto, Canada:
          • When I was first researching Canada, Toronto kept showing lots of places to visit with kids, so I’m excited to stop here.
      • Ottawa, Canada:
          • Looks like riding the canal is a must do, so we must do it!
      • Montreal, Canada:
          • I was excited to visited the bio dome here, but it’s closed til next year. I guess we’ll find something to do. It’s faster to just go into the states, so we’re skipping Montreal
      • New Stop: Colchester, Vermont
          • A pretty stop and a faster way to get to New Hampshire
      • Twin Mountain, New Hampshire:
          • We enjoyed visiting New Hampshire when we stopped in Vermont last year. Can’t to see what else is there.
      • Portland, Maine:
          • I’ve heard that Maine is beautiful in the fall. Looking forward to seeing this area.
      • Boston, Massachusetts
          • Damon grew up just outside of Boston, so he’s excited to take the boys to the Children’s Museum and Aquarium

      Were really excited for this leg of our journey. Let us know if there are any must do’s along the way.

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      Chicago – Last Stop on Leg #4

      Thank goodness our drive from Indianapolis was a short three hours. We managed to stop just outside of Chicago to get some supplies and have lunch. Since we made good time, I convinced Damon to stop at a nearby GameStop to get a Lego Dimensions set I’ve been looking for (so thrilled to find it!).

      We made it to our destination, but it’s not an RV park – it’s a parking lot in the middle of downtown Chicago. Amazing location but ZERO amenities – no power, no water, nothing. To help keep the RV cool, we set about covering all the windows with space blankets.

      A cheap way to keep the RV cool

      We turned on the generator in the evening to help cool everything down then went to bed. We then learned the hard way that our Co2 detector works. Turns out our generator doesn’t ventilate out, it just settles under the RV. And with no wind to ow it away, it started to build up and seep into the RV. Opening windows and turning off the generator seemed to clear things up.

      Needless to say, my mind was filled with worry, which made it very hard to sleep. By morning I was a zombie. However, the boys soon made it clear that they needed a day out.

      So we walked to a nearby playground on Lake Michigan, filled with lots of swings, climbing equipment, and splash pad. Little-dude instantly took to the slide and splash area. Mini-man played a little, but was more interested in climbing a tree than playing.

      Really cute playground that wasn’t busy

      Me. I was tired and dehydrated. After we grabbed some lunch, I felt better, so we decided to take the boys to the Lincoln Park Zoo. This free zoo is adorable and filled with awesome animals.

      Eavesdropping led us to this amazing view of Downtown Chicago

      While we were there, we met up with Damon’s brother, who helped us get to a local grocery store to pick up supplies for our sailing trip that evening. Unfortunately, a storm rolled in, cancelling our excursion.

      Fun fact: this zoo is free!

      It was the last day before the weekend, and according to my research, Chicago is very busy on a weekend. So I wanted to get some more visits in before the crowds hit. First up – The Shedd Aquarium.

      How to get the boys to look at the camera – give them food

      Ever since mini-man started liking fish, I have wanted to take him to this aquarium. what was really fun, was he seemed to know where we were going. After parking the car in a parking garage, we had to walk to the aquarium through Millennium Park. About a quarter of the way through, mini-man jumped out of the stroller and insisted on walking the rest of the way. When the aquarium came into view, he sped up and couldn’t wait to go inside.

      Unfortunately, the line for tickets was very long. Here’s a tip – buy them online before you go. I did that while waiting in line and not moving. Within a minute of finishing, I had my tickets in a pdf sent to my phone and was able to go straight into the building. Which also, magically, lets us skip the bag check.

      He was in heaven

      Once we caught up with little-dude and Damon, we went in. I kid you not, mini-man just walked ahead of everyone. He just had to see his sish. Fortunately, there’s a very large aquarium as soon as you get inside. Both boys sat there for a while just watching the dish. This was great for Damon and me, as we could cool down in the AC and get something to drink.

      I love the Washed Ashore Project and the work -especially this otter 😍

      Soon, we were being led through the whole place by the boys. The aquarium is four stories tall and filled with with all kids of exhibits. What I loved was that the Aquarium offered a wide variety of things for kids to touch and climb on.

      After spending about five hours there, the kids were done and ready to leave. Little-dude fell asleep, so we took mini-man to the nearby Maggie Daley Park – which has an enormous children’s playground. Mini-man adored climbing one everything, and even ventured off on his own for a while. I love that his confidence is growing. While we were there, we met up with Damon’s parents, who came into town to visit Damon’s brother.

      This place was huge but very busy

      ONce, Jared got off work ,we headed to a local pizza place, Pizannos. Cause when your in Chicago, you gotta do pizza.

      Broke my diet for this -but I made sure to only eat a few pieces 😜

      Along the way, we did another Chicago staple – the bean.

      Also known as the other endless cloud

      The ride home was certainly interesting. We were in stuck in wall-to-wall traffic for some unknown reason. After some redirection from Google, we made it back and learned that the traffic was due to a Beyonce concert (For those of you reading this in the future – shes a singer).

      That girl can sure stop traffic

      We woke up Saturday and saw that the downtown area was congested again – this time due to a ‘back-to-school’ parade. Wanting to get out of the RV, but get away from the crowds, we headed to the suburbs of Chicago for some thrift store and grocery shopping.

      I love seeing how much fun they have in thrift stores

      Sunday, we decided to do something different. Since parking, and traffic, in Chicago is horrible, we tried biking. After a rough night, we loaded up my bike and rented a second bike for Damon to ride, and headed to the Navy Pier. The four-mile bike ride took us, mostly, along Lake Michigan, so we got to see a lot of the city. The boys objected at first, but soon fell asleep in their wagon.

      At the pier, we met up with Damon’s parents to ride the Ferris Wheel. This turned out to be awesome as it gave us a great view of the city. And both boys did great. They sat and looked around as we rode. I was slightly stressed when the boys tried to push on the doors but loved the experience overall.

      High above Chicago

      After a quick dinner at a nearby TGI Fridays, we got back on our bikes and headed back. We got about a third of the way back, when the boys freaked out so we stopped in front of the Millennial Fountain and let them play. They soon calmed down and we were able to go again.

      Quick stop to fix the iPad

      Then just as we approached the beach close to our RV, they freaked out again, so we pulled over again. The boys seemed to enjoy this stop a lot, as they could play on the beach.

      Boys wanted out of the bikes and instantly went to the beach

      Once they were done, we started to walk back to the RV. Im not sure why we did this. At the time, it seemed like the best option. But we started to feel tired and cranky on the walk back. Both boys wanted to be carried, which made the journey feel like it took much longer.

      I collapsed when we got home – four+miles of bike riding plus walking and my legs were done. After sitting for a few minutes, I tried to get up and realized how much pain I was in. Sleeping was definitely interesting.

      The next day was a monday and is was 80! Perfect day for the each. As soon as we set up camp, the boys were in the sand and clammoring to get into the water.

      Wis!

      We spent our last day in Chicago, back at the Navy Pier. This time, taking the boys to the Chicago Children’s Museum. This two story place is filled with a variety of activities that both boys loved.

      This place was fun

      We returned to our to a very hot, humid RV. At first we tried to cool it down by opening he windows and using fans, in an effort to save gas. However, that didn’t work and everyone felt it. I soon put my foot down and turned on the air conditioner. It might’ve cost us some gas but it was worth it as the cooler temperatures allowed for a much calmer evening.

      And so ends our fourth leg of our journey. At this point, we don’t have leg #5 mapped out. We really should get on that. After next week, we have nothing reserved!

      $35 a night with a view of downtown Chicago. Not too bad

      Salt Lake City – Wrapping Up

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      The wagon always mean we’re going somewhere fun

       

      We ended the week back at the pool. The boys had a lot happen in just a few days, so a fun day at the pool was really needed.

      IMG_20180609_171633_916.jpg
      Someone got really big 

      Saturday was a big day – little-dude turn one! We started at the pool where little-dude had fun and is getting more comfortable with the pool.

      Then we went to a local thrift and scored big time! In addition to finding some great swim clothes for the boys we found this adorable basketball hoop. The boys wouldn’t stop playing with it in the store, got upset when we put it in the cart, and haven’t stopped playing with it since we got it home.

      The following day both boys were sick. Mini-man was covered in bug bites and itching like crazy. Little-dude had a fever. Neither slept.

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      Trains!

      Luckily, with some help from the almighty Tylenol, they were pretty calm. This allowed Damon to run out and get some errands done. Later, we were even able to pick up a new train set for mini-man – which he dove into as soon as Damon brought it inside.

      Despite another rough night, I knew we needed to get out, so we took the kids to the aquarium. Two hours of fish made mini-man very happy.

      PhotoGrid_1529599549331.jpg
      Nothing better than fruit by the pool

      Knowing we had just a few days left until we travel to Wyoming, Damon and I agreed that we needed to get the oil changes in the RV. So I took the boys to the pool while Damon drive the RV to the mechanic. Mini-man loved spending time in the water. Little-dude was still feeling the effects of teething and was content to just sit in my lap on a lounge chair. He even discovered blueberries and ate all the ones I brought (which was a pretty big container).

      The next day hit a high of 97! So we did what any sensible parents would do – we took the kids to the aquarium. We stayed for hours and had a blast. Who knew that the best time to go would be late afternoon – hardly any kids and all the animals were very energetic.

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      Definitely one of our favorite campgrounds – beautiful, pool, and close to transit

      We had a lot to accomplish on our last day. Although our drive to Wyoming was relatively short, Google doesn’t take elevation into account – so we were worried that it would be a long drive and wanted to get an early start. To prepare for the drive, we started cleaning and packing things up. Fortunately, it’s an RV and didn’t take to long to pack everything up. Next stop – state #23 Wyoming.

      Hittin’the Road – Part III

      After six weeks in San Antonio, it’s time for us to get back on the road. It was great to have a break and get so much accomplished. Now that the batteries are recharged and we’re reorganized, were ready to go!

      1. San Antonio, TX: Ok, so we’re only going 30 minutes away but we have somethings we want installed and fixed before we truly hit the road. Plus we can visit Gruene.
      2. Seminole County State Park, TX: Rio Grande!
      3. Maverick Ranch, TX: because Texas is big and takes a while to get out if 😋
      4. Brantley Lake, NM: Home of Carlsbad Caverns.
      5. Albuquerque, NM: Everyone says it’s beautiful
      6. Navajo State Park, NM: Close to Four Corners (cause why not!). Plus, close to snow areas in Colorado to take the kids sledding!
      7. Grand Canyon, AZ: Never been and heard it’s a fun stop.
      8. Southern California: no exact stops, yet, but excited to explore
      9. Sequoia National Forest: I’ve always wanted to visit
      10. Lake Tahoe, CA: Another beautiful place to visit
      11. Northern California: Still researching stops but really excited to explore this area
      12. Redwood National Forest, CA: Another place I’ve always wanted to visit
      13. Coastal Oregon: Still researching the area but need to go through this area to get to our final stop
      14. Seattle, Washington: Damon and I visited here a few years ago and loved it! Plus, it’s a short ferry ride from Victoria, home to the Butchart Gardens

      Surprise!!!

      Our new home!

      Meet our new ride – 2016 Thor Challenger 37KT.

      We want to play more and clean less

      A few weeks ago, we stayed in a rental house while we got our trailer fixed. When we came back we realized there were some things that were missing in our current setup.

      The day after we got our trailer back, Damon showed me photos a Class A motorhome with a layout similar to what we have now, a rarity in bus style RVs. It had more storage, room to move about while we’re on the road, and a washer/dryer!

      Much more storage than what we have now

      Fortunately, a dealer nearby had one on hand so we were able to look at it in person the very next day.

      We. Fell. In. Love. And, thanks to Bitcoin, we could afford it.

      Look at all that storage! And that’s only half of it!

      However, we are practical people and didn’t want to spend money just because we could afford it. We found two other units with better prices to help with negotiation efforts, but the dealer wouldn’t come down so we walked away.

      Mini-man going over the paperwork 😄

      We got in touch with a seller in Michigan who was selling a slightly older model for a great price. We were all set to fly up there with the kids to get it when a government decision affected the deal.

      Nice, big living area

      Turns out the land that the seller was about buy  in giving up their RV had a view of a recently announced steel mill development. He was really sad but thought it was best not to sell. I have to say, I don’t blame him.

      A King sized bed!!!

      During all this, we stumbled upon the same RV as the one we first toured for an amazing price, just four hours away. After an inspection found the RV to be almost brand new,  so we bought it!

      Fun Fact: we bought this RV for $99,900 using Bitcoin worth only $8000 this past January. Wow!

      By Tuesday, we finally all had recovered from colds, so we decided to jump and go pick her up. A bank transfer, a rental car, a four our drive, walk through, paperwork and four hour drive back wiped us out. It was a bit much, but we did it.

      The closet I’ll ever come to driving this monster

      And this is only the beginning. Now we need to move our stuff and sell our current setup. Fortunately, Damons parents are visiting for a few days to help us get everything done!

      San Antonio – Week 2, Part II

      The boys helping Damon put up Christmas decorations

      By Monday, it was hard to believe that so much had happened during our short time in San Antonio – the RiverWalk, SeaWorld, rental houses – and yet, we somehow managed to make things even more interesting

      Were movin’ on up!

      Monday: we spent the morning doing research for the next leg of our journey and came to a big decision that we’ll tell you about very soon.

      Pool time!

      By the afternoon, we realized that we owed the boys some fun, and seeing as it was the last warm day for a while, we took them to the pool (mini-man’s favorite activity)

      Me and my sous chef

      Tuesday: After all of our activities, our RV was starting to looking like a tornado hit it (or an unsupervised toddler), so we spent the majority of the day cleaning and organizing – and man, do I feel so much better!

      So you can eat and play at the same time

      Wednesday: after a long night with a sick, teething baby, I became a home body trying to catch up on sleep and help little-dude feel better.

      Have you seen my corn bread?

      What a way to end the week.

      San Antonio – Week 1, Part I

      Welcome to San Antonio

      We’ve been in San Antonio for a full week and a lot has happened. 

      Mini-man didnt care that the water was cold, he went straight in

      Thursday: This is the first stop in a long time that’s had an opened pool. So once we set up, we had to visit, much to mini-man’s delight.

      Watching big brother, who’s almost ready for a bicycle, is fun!

      Friday: A much needed shopping day. After weeks of small towns with small grocery stores, it was wonderful to get back into a Costco and Sam’s Club to stock up on some basic supplies.

      Saturday: We met up with my Uncle Sherif and Aunt Coral for lunch at In-and-Out Burger and enjoyed catching up. 

      Then we took our kids to SeaWorld. With this visit, I’ve officially visited all the SeaWorld parks. Although it’s the smallest, that worked for us since we had two small kids. We enjoyed seeing the lights but wished  there were more animal exhibits. See more in our Visiting SeaWorld San Antonio blog post.

      We love our trailer, but she needed some help

      Sunday: As you may recall, we’ve had some issues with our RV for a while (electrical, water, just a couple of small things) and FINALLY got it into a repair place. The day was rough as both kids had horrible nights and we were all tired and cranky. Luckily, Damon and I regrouped and managed to get our things together and move into a rental house. 

      Fun fact: my dad and Uncle Sherif, one of his best childhood friends, were born on the same day 😄

      After a quick drop off, we headed to my Uncle and Aunt’s house for dinner. It was fun to see them for a few hours and have a delicious meal, prepared by my Uncle. 

      Not quite done!

      All that in just half a week! See what we did during the second half, in our San Antonio, Week 1, part II blog post. 

      Thanksgiving in an RV

      Dinner time

      Since we are traveling to San Antonio in Thanksgiving Day, we decided to have our meal a day early.

      Less space and less time than previous years

      This year is a little different than past Thanksgivings – 1. I have two kids, including a baby 2. My kitchen is much smaller. With these things in mind, I tried to streamline our dinner as much as possible.

      • Turkey: found a 3lb Butterball, pre-seasoned and only takes three hours to cook!
      • Potatoes: found some wonderful instant mash potatoes. Not as good as fresh, but fast and easy to make and still taste.
      • Cranberry sauce: canned, of course!
      • Vegetable: Freah Asparagus
      • Bread: premade from the bakery
      Little-dude loved it!

      In total, I spent about an hour making dinner and the result was an delicious dinner.

      Having fun making ornaments outside while dinner cooks

      With the extra time, I was able to spend time doing arts and crafts with the kids. Nothing amazing was made but we had fun and mini-man discovered an affinity for glitter. 

      Lesson learned: work smarter, not harder.

      Texas Stop #2 – Exploring Corsicana

      Sand is awesome

      Thanks to the boys, we woke up the next day at 5a. After some breakfast and playtime, we decided to take them to the playground.

      Waking up early is exhausting

      That worked for about 5 minutes. Almost instantly, little-dude fell asleep and mini-man followed suit a few minutes later.

      Trains!

      After their naps, we all needed food and some adventure, so we headed into downtown Corsicana. After dropping off our laundry (State campgrounds are nice but most don’t have laundry), we decided to walk around. 

      Cute town of Corsicana

      The city is too cute. We enjoyed seeing all the historic buildings and learning about the town through statues placed around the town. 

      Cart full of kids

      Once our laundry was done, we picked up some groceries, and went back to the RV for dinner. A well-balanced day of adventure, family time, and a few projects. Lesson learned – you don’t have to go big to have an adventure

      Little To Do in Little Rock

      Our campsite near Little Rock

      One would think that staying at a campground near the capitol city of Arkansas would give you lots of things to do. Ya, not so much with Little Rock. Unless your a huge fan of the Clinton’s (not really a must see when you have toddlers), then there isn’t a lot to do. 

      Lots of playing

      We spent much of our five days playing with the kids in the trailer. We took the kids a could of times to the playground, but, unfortunately, it was either really cold out or completely over run with kids. 

      Trying yo enjoy the campground

      The worst part for me was the day before we left the campground decided to fix all their roads. Tar has a very strong smell and is a trigger for my migraines. Despite our best efforts to get out of the campground before it got too bad, I did get a migraine and it’s lasted for days (I still have it 3 days later, along with fatigue and nausea). Would it really have been so hard for the camp host to say ‘Hey were retarring the roads’, so we could make alternate plans????? Or even better, close off each section and not have campers there while they retar. 

      Beautiful place to stay

      Either way, we weren’t told. After more than a dozen campsites, we’ve only encountered a handful of nice hosts (or even met them) and only ONE was at a government site. All the others never appear. 

      The place where the city got it’s name

      On a positive note, we did escape to a pretty riverfront area in Little Rock, called Julius Breckling River Front Park, home to THE little rock that inspired the cities name. 

      Having some fun at the playgrounds

      We walked around a bit and played with the kids on their playgrounds. I have to say, they went overboard with the ‘little rock’ theming (so many little rocks).

      Onward!

      So as you can see, not an eventful stop. And, to be honest, I’m not looking forward to the next two stops as they are in smaller towns than Little Rock. Can’t wait to get to San Antonio!!!