Family Travel Stories

January 21, 2015
by Traci Bisson

National Parks Jr. Ranger Program – a great education for kids

ranger Luke

Lucas gets sworn in as a Junior Ranger at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial

We learned about the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program just after we left Badlands National Park in Interior, South Dakota. There are currently over 200 of these programs being offered in parks throughout the United States. Children can pick up an activity book at the Park’s Visitor Center that contains specific information about the park they are visiting. Most books are free but some National Parks do charge a few dollars to cover production costs.

To complete the program kids interview Rangers, complete games, and answer questions about the park and the National Park Service. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5-13 but anyone can participate, including adults. Participants are also encouraged to attend a Ranger-led program and/or watch a movie.

This program gives kids and families the opportunity to uniquely explore and learn about their national parks, and how they can help protect them today and in the future. Children typically finish the activity book in 30 minutes to one hour, but some programs take longer to complete. It took my 10 year-old several hours to complete the Alcatraz Island activity book.

At the end of their experience in the park, they are sworn in as a Junior Ranger and receive a special certificate and official Junior Ranger badge and/or patch.Ranger Lucas at Mt. Rushmore

Lucas has earned 22 badges/patches thus far on our trip. He proudly displays his hard work on a Ranger hat we purchased for him and a canvas wall hanging that he saved up to buy. His favorite National Park visits thus far (and the pins he displays on his hat) include Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Grand Canyon, Alcatraz, Redwood, Alcatraz and Devil’s Tower.

He is still working on two activity books that he was not able to complete at the park. You are allowed to take with you to finish and then mail to the address listed in the book. You will then receive your reward in the mail along with a personal letter from a Park Ranger.

This is a wonderful, interactive learning experience for kids. It gives them an appreciation and understanding of the historical process (and the notable Presidents and others involved) that occurred to conserve this precious land.

Junior Ranger Motto: “Explore, Learn, and Protect!”

NOTE: Many activity books can be accessed online ahead of time. A visit to the National Park however, (this includes monuments, recreation areas, historic sites, seashores, memorials, etc.) must happen in order to complete the program. To see which parks have online access to their programs, click here…>. If the park is not listed here it only means you need to visit in person in order to obtain the activity booklet. In addition there is an app that accompanies this program called the “Oh, Ranger!” ParkFinder. It is available on iTunes and Google play.

January 17, 2015
by Traci Bisson

From California to Nevada – How We Spent the Holidays on the Road

We enjoyed a wonderful holiday season but found that we were confused and frustrated with this time of year as we traveled from sunny California to Nevada to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s .

Thanksgiving Day dinnerWe are from New Hampshire and for us, mother nature marks the start of the season. Setting back the clocks and the drop in temperature indicates to us that the holidays are coming. This transition helps us mentally shift from fall and prepare for the season – gift shopping, sending Christmas cards, attending craft fairs, visiting Santa, etc. As a family, we enjoyed spending time together and making new “on the road” traditions, however we were reminded of all the seasonal happenings we take part in back home and longed to spend time with family and friends.

Thanksgiving was spent at Yosemite Pines RV Resort in Groveland, CA. A campground located in a town much like the one we hail from in New Thanksgiving 2014-11-27 20.23.32Hampshire. Lucas, our budding chef, helped prepare a delicious menu for dinner, which consisted of turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, buttermilk biscuits, butternut squash, sparkling grape cider, apple crisp and pumpkin pie. I also challenged him to include a dish that the pilgrims had at their dinners. He chose Nasaump, which is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens, and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal. We all gagged just a little on this side dish.

We were looking forward to attending the local craft fair, but when we showed up and there was no craft fair, we were disappointed to learn that the banner the town hung announcing the event was from last year and the dates were incorrect.

We spent the day after Thanksgiving at Yosemite National Park, which reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. Yosemite is known for its granite cliffs, waterfalls (which were not flowing this time of year), clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and biological diversity. Unfortunately, many, many people had the same idea. Parking was at a minimum to see sites. The sites we were able to see including Half Dome and El Capitan, which was recently scaled by two free climbers who made history as the first to accomplish such a feat in one push, were beautiful and majestic. Well worth a visit.

Christmas was spent in southern California. Early December we spent a week in Anaheim to visit the Disneyland parks. This is where Lucas had the opportunity to visit with Mrs. Clause and make cookies. It was wonderful to see the parks decorated in twinkling lights and watch all the magic unfold that Disney parks always deliver. The colorful, character parades and fireworks set to music topped off our visit.

After Anaheim, we traveled to Rancho Jurupa Park in Riverside, CA. We were very fortunate to spend two weeks with my mother and brother who flew 2014-12-09 17.38.57out for the holidays to visit with us. Riverside is home to the historic Mission Inn, the Beaux-Arts style Riverside County Historic Courthouse (based on the Petit Palais in Paris, France), and the Riverside Fox Theater, where the first showing of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind took place. The theater was purchased by the city and refurbished as part of the Riverside Renaissance Initiative.

Riverside’s annual Festival of Lights was happening during our stay. Another brilliant display of lights. Vendors selling food lined the plaza and the Mission Inn was decorated inside and out for all to visit and admire. During their stay, we also visited Universal Studio, Joshua Tree National Park, Sea World, Citrus State Historic Park. In addition, we toured Hollywood, and watched the Newport Beach holiday boat parade after spending all day at the Pacific ocean area beaches. Lucas enjoyed making Christmas cookies with his grandmother and Uncle who also took him to a cooking class. Jacob went to a watch a Broncos vs. Chargers game in San Diego with his Uncle. This will most likely be the Christmas experiences they remember forever.

Shopping for gifts consisted of a half day’s worth of fighting crowds about a week before Christmas when my mom and brother were able to watch the kids. Unfortunately, we only managed to send a few Christmas cards. We did get a chance to see Santa at Universal Studio and Mrs. Claus we visited with at Disneyland.

X-mas Day 2014-12-25 08.39.31My family left a few days before the holiday, which we spent at Campland by the Bay in San Diego. Christmas Eve day we spent watching seals play in the waves at a beach in La Jolla and seashell collecting at Silver Strand State Park Beach off Coronado Island. After dinner that evening, we played Candy Land (candy version) and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Santa visited our traveling home and left gifts for the kids.

Mission 2014-12-25 13.05.56On Christmas Day, we attended church at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, which X-mas Dinner 2014-12-25 15.08.15was first built in 1769, for a peaceful and inspiring mass. This was located in the Old Town part of San Diego. Christmas dinner at Rockin’ Baja Lobster and watching the movie Into The Woods at a local theater topped off the day.

Our stay in San Diego concluded with a bike ride through the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve where we were able to visit with people from Mexico. It is the only spot in the Southwest that allows this intimate opportunity for families and friends to see each other and converse without the hassle of crossing the border.

Through the fences you can also see a monument, which represents the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This Treaty of borderPeace ended the Mexican-American War in 1848. From this location, you can also see Mexico’s beach neighborhood of Las Playas de Tijuana where a bull ring is still standing by the sea, and an old lighthouse.

The Wine Ridge RV Resort in Pahrump, Nevada was our destination for ringing in the New Year. After much research about how to celebrate the holiday in Las Vegas on family blogs, we decided to spend a quiet evening at home watching the NY ball drop. The strip is not a place for kids on this occasion. It was also a very cold evening – unusual for Las Vegas this time of year. Temperatures dropped below freezing.

We celebrated my birthday a few days later in Las Vegas and visited several hotels to show the kids all the splendor and glitz that defines this area. My teenager loves the city and talks about coming back Las Vegas_5924with his friends in several years when he is “legal”. My youngest was a trooper as we dragged him up and down the strip for approximately 12 miles of walking according to our pedometer. He enjoyed the Hershey Factory and M&M World.

We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to see the southwest over the holidays and enjoy new experiences. Next year, we will be back in New Hampshire where we will once again enjoy our favorite traditions.


December 12, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Helping our kids follow their passions while road schooling – baseball and cooking

Jacob and Coach Gray2One reason we decided to take an ultimate adventure across country and homeschool our kids was to allow them the opportunity to follow their passions.

Our oldest son, who is 14, loves baseball. He understands the strategy of the game and immerses himself in the sport whenever possible – reading books, checking out websites, watching ESPN or the sports broadcast of the local news station, talking with other baseball enthusiasts, etc. His passion and positive attitude have also helped him develop his skill for the sport. Over the past month he has finally been able to continue training and learning more about what it will take to fulfill his dream of playing for a Division I college and someday perhaps a Major League Team.

He had the opportunity to train with Cedric Gray in Portland, OR – a former MLB player and wonderful coach who connected with Jacob in the short four days he was able toJacob Batting work with him. His training was specific and his knowledge and experience helped Jacob improve his hitting and fielding. It was incredible to see the improvements he made, especially swinging at 90 mph pitches or the one-handed hits at 75 mph. Coach Grey also had many fielding drills he introduced Jacob to for sharpening his skills. He had many nice things to say about Jacob and his skills. One of our favorites was “If I had Jacob to coach for two months, I could create a monster!”

While staying in San Jose, California, Jacob had the opportunity to train at South Bay Sports Training thanks to a Groupon we found. The following week, he Jacob and Coach Grayattended the Winter Skills Sharpening Camp at the University of California at Berkeley. Each day was split into three segments: hitting, defense and pitching. Each session was two hours in length and included individualized instruction from the Cal Baseball Coaching staff.

We have also spent many hours researching what our son needs to accomplish both educationally and athletically over the next four years to accomplish his goal of playing for a top college. He will attend future baseball camps in Arizona, Florida and North Carolina while we travel in early 2015.

Lucas at cooking class-smOur youngest son, who is 10, loves to cook. He dreams of being on the MasterChef Junior reality show in a few years. This year he helped plan the Thanksgiving dinner menu and has been working with me to bake a few desserts.

Lucas at cooking class2-smWhile in San Jose, California, he attended classes at Young Chefs Academy in Sunnyvale. He worked in small groups with other kids his age to create all kinds of dishes, including pizza, sweet potato pie, Brazilian cheese balls, chili, cornbread, blueberry scones with lemon glaze frosting, and banana nut streusel. He loved the teachers and had a great time learning new cooking techniques and how to make so many yummy foods.

Lucas menuAfter his first class, he was so excited to share with us what he made that he set up a mock restaurant at the kitchen table in our camper. The table set up included toys to play with while our food was being prepared, custom-made menus, napkins and utensils. The menus listed all of the items he made at cooking class (click the image above to see in detail). The price of each item was also listed and included a hug, a kiss, stand up and sing the ABCs, a high-five and other payment options. The food was delicious. It made me smile to see how excited and engaged he was in this activity.

Today, he decided to make lunch for himself and his brother. He was very industrious gathering the items he needed to make turkey sandwiches with a pickle, sliced apples (he had help cutting these) and Chex mix on the Lucas made lunch_smside.  He even got out the step stool so he could reach the cabinet where the bread is stored above the stove.

I love to see them this passionate about learning. My goal is to continue to look for opportunities for them to expand upon and grow their passions as we travel.

November 20, 2014
by Traci Bisson

A warning when towing a 5th wheel and filling up at gas stations a few miles off the highway

shell stationOn our way to San Jose, California from Crescent City, we needed to make one last stop for gas before we drove through Oakland traveling on U.S. Route 101 to I-580. We were having a hard time finding stations that carried diesel right off the highway so we decided to venture a few miles off our main route. We located a Shell station in Santa Rosa. What we did not realize until it was too late was that the roof over the pumps was a few feet lower than those directly off the highway. It was dark and the height (which we saw after the fact) was written in small lettering to the left of the roof.

After filling the tank, we debated backing up but decided against it because of the turn we would need to make to exit… unfortunately we pulled forward.

As we were pulling away from the pump a crunching sound could be heard from the top of the camper. By pulling forward we had dragged one of our AC units under the gas station roof edge. Now we had one unit under the roof and one on the opposite side of the roof. Continuing forward or backing up was not an option at this point.

We called the police for help but they would not come to write an accident report unless the manager of the Shell station requested.

Next we called our insurance company and filed our report. They located a tow company that may be able to help but they were not hopeful. Our thinking was if they had a truck without a sliding hitch, we could detach and they could hitch up and back us out since their hitch would be lower than our sliding hitch.

My husband suggested detaching the truck and lowering the 5th wheel on the rails to back up four feet than hooking up again. I was not comfortable with this suggestion and recommended he reach out to the RV Tips Facebook group we were members of for advice and support.

While all of this was taking place we also had released the air from the trucks’ tires to 20 psi. Unfortunately it was not enough to drop us below what was needed to fit under the station2

After about 45 minutes of brainstorming, we were approached by a Shell patron who was anxious to help. He was on his way to a boy scout meeting with his son. He called his brother to see if he still had a 5th wheel hitch in his truck. When that idea did not work, he asked if he could see the roof of our camper. He and my husband climbed up to investigate further. After a few minutes of discussing they decided to drop the truck’s tire pressure even further to 10 psi. They asked me to drive very slowly in reverse as they both pushed on a side of the air conditioning unit. They successfully pushed it under the lip of the roof.

shell station3Fortunately there were only scratches on the roof of the Shell gas station. Our AC unit casing was cracked but it still works fine. The insurance company comes tomorrow to view the full extent of the damage. We were lucky. So thankful to this complete stranger for taking the time to care and lend a helping hand as well as to other RVers in our Facebook group. We pumped our tires back up at the station air pump, grabbed supper from the gas station and continued the 120 miles to the campground in San Jose arriving at 10:00 pm. We quickly set up and went to bed.


November 2, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Our First Holiday on the Road – Halloween

In the past, we would take the kids trick or treating for Halloween. Our house in New Hampshire is in a great area where neighbors decorate their homes inside and out and truly cater to kids for this holiday. We missed our community tradition but enjoyed a new tradition this year.

We decided not to trick or treat this year simply because we did not need all the candy and we did not know the neighborhoods in the Portland, OR area. We chose Portland as our destination this year because of all the Halloween activities and goings on that happen in this area. Portland is rated 9th out of 20 cities for best Halloween happenings in the U.S. They have a website called PDX Pipeline and app for iPhone and Android you can download that keeps you updated on everything Halloween as well as other holidays.

We found a number of interesting things to do this year. Our youngest son gets scared easily so we had to find some mild activities that he would enjoy, but would interest our teenager as well. We celebrated on Halloween Eve and Day.

download1On Halloween Eve, we visited Wenzel Farm’s Halloween Fantasy Trail in Oregon City, OR. It was raining so there were not many people here. We have been staying several weeks now on the Pacific Wenzel Farm 2014-10-30 20.03.19Northwest coast so we were well aware that it rains almost everyday this time of year. We learned how to plan for and play in the rain. At Wenzel Farm they had a lighted path that ran throughout the farm. Along the path were spooky decorations like witches, bats, ghosts and other creepy sites. Music was playing and recorded stories could be heard at a few of the download2stops – pirate maze, crooked house, etc. There were also tunnels and a suspension bridge. At the end, we entered the haunted castle. Lucas thought this was a bit scarier and gripped my hand tightly. He did go through it twice however. (Learn more about this adventure at The Traveling Turtle Blog).

On Halloween Day, we went to the Portland Art Museum in Portland, OR for their $5 after 5 holiday event. This included a haunted tour of Portland Art Museum 10-31-14_3139Portland Art Museum 10-31-14_3166part of the museum, black light art viewing, a thriller dance performance (see a clip from the video below) as well as touring the museum to see many different types of art. This was a very unique and educational way to spend Halloween. The kids stayed interested even though it was not their favorite activity.

After the art museum, we headed out to Milwaukie, OR to visit Davis Graveyard. This place was amazing! According to their website, the homeowners purchased this house because it had the perfect yard for a Halloween cemetery. It took them several years to bring the dead and dying to life, but the dream become a reality. For over 10 years, they have created a creepy crawly yard haunt that has attracted people from all over the Portland area. Almost everything in their yard display is handmade from materials bought at the local hardware store. In my IMG_0779opinion, their set was movie scene quality. They have also built a life-size abbey and mausoleum. In addition they had images of ghosts throughout the yard. These are video effects that play homemade movies of “ghosts”. One video was created IMG_0777when their kids were younger playing and singing Ring Around the Rosie. To top it off, the Milwaukie High School drama department, dressed as zombies, did a skit to music.

Finally, after we returned to the camper later that evening, we had pizza (yes at 10:00pm) and hot chocolate and watched Monster House. Lucas gave our Halloween holiday activities a 7 and Jacob gave it a 6. They missed trick-or-treating but did enjoy doing something new.


October 8, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Recap of Days 20-42 – The “We Miss Home” Phase

2014-10-01 15.13.44

We saw several buffalo gathered around the hot springs at Yellowstone on the chilly day we visited.

We are staying at a small, intimate campground located in White Bird, Idaho tonight as I write this blog post; day 42 into our trip. The last 22 days (since our first trip recap) have been filled with more exciting adventures and several challenges as we made our way through the Northern Rockies and Plains and finally into the Northwest where we have been for the last few days. The landscape has changed from fields of corn, sunflowers, soy bean and wheat in the Upper Midwest to a dessert like landscape, rolling hills and tall canyon like cliffs with rivers winding through them.

This section of the trip we reached the large National Parks, including Yellowstone, which is America’s first National Park established in 1872. Read more about this park at Lucas’ blog The Traveling Turtle. The parks are beautiful and majestic. Books and TV documentaries do not do these areas justice. They are beyond what you can imagine; vibrant colors, tall cliffs, animals roaming free, waterfalls, towering snow-capped mountains, caves, and impressive man-made structures.


Badlands National Park in South Dakota

As beautiful and memorable as this area is however, it presents other challenges to travelers. Especially those who rely on technology. We encountered many areas with no cell phone signal (we have Verizon), and poor wifi at a few of the campgrounds – surprisingly the best wifi connection we had was in the Grand Teton area at the campground we stayed at. It was so reliable that we got caught up on work, school, Facebook posts, Instagram uploads, downloading new apps and games and even watched several episodes of our favorite TV shows online. While in South Dakota, we visited the local Books-a-Million store for several hours over a period of two days to use their wifi. We all enjoyed this change of scenery.

States we have traveled through:

  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Montana – visited this state while at Bighorn Canyon National Park
  • Idaho

Our campground stops have included:

  • Eagle RV Park (Thermopolis, WY)
  • Teton Range Resort (Moran, WY)
  • Craters of the Moon/Arco KOA (Arco, ID)
  • Hi Valley RV Park (Boise, ID)
  • SwiftWater RV Park (White Bird, ID)

Our field trips/activities:

  1. Trip to western side of South Dakota to see sites:
    • Badlands National Park (hiked the Door Trail, Window Trail and Fossil Exhibit Trail)
    • Wall Drug
    • Black Hills Petrified Forest to learn about geology
    • Geographic center of the nation where we visited the 1876 Johnny Spaulding Cabin, Tri-State Museum and Center of the Nation visitor center in Belle Fourche
    • Historic City of Deadwood – read Jacob’s blog post about this place
    • Mammoth Site Hot Springs (learned more about the geology of the Black Hills area and what happened to the Mammoths and other animals in this area when a sink hole occurred)
    • Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs (toured and learned about the 6th longest cave in the world). Hiked up the Rankin Ridge Nature Trail.
    • Mount Rushmore (saw lighting ceremony)


      Mount Rushmore at night is majestic.

    • Crazy Horse (learned about Native American history and culture)
  2. Trip to Wyoming to see sites:
    • Devils Tower National Monument

      devil's canyon

      The boys at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

    • Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis (learned about the natural hot springs and the geology of the area)

      2014-09-25 11.33.22

      Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, WY.

    • Legend Rock (an important petroglyph site, which features hundreds of individual petroglyphs spread across the face of the rocks)
    • Bighorn Canyon National Park – read Lucas’ blog post about this park
    • Grand Teton National Park
    • Yellowstone National Park
  3. Trip to Idaho to see sites:
    • Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (learned about this interesting geological area)
    • White Knob Ghost Town (learned about the history of this mining community now defunct)
    • Zoo Boise
    • Downtown Boise (talked with local business owners, saw art graffiti section of town)
    • Hell’s Canyon

We miss our family and friends as well as our faithful dog Dakota who stayed behind based on our veterinarian’s recommendation. She has an anxious personality and would not do well on this type of quick-moving trip. She is quite comfortable with my parents. Her home away from home. We will reunite with her in April 2015.

Our oldest son was having a hard time being away from his friends. Social media did not help this cause. He would see pictures and read updates of what his friends were doing on Facebook – school events, baseball/soccer games, local fairs and festivals, etc. He has struggled with this from day one but has slowly found ways to put everything into perspective. This is a learning process for him as he discovers how to deal with emotions he has not felt before. It has been lonely on the road for all of us since we are traveling at a time of year when there are fewer campers where we stay. This means fewer kids. We have kept busy however as a family and I feel that has helped all of us to cope with missing New Hampshire.

Now that we have almost reached the west coast, we look forward to slowing down and staying in areas for longer periods of time. We are off to Spokane and Seattle, WA on Monday, October 13th.

For up-to-date information on our trip across America, please follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

September 29, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Is Mass Transit for Everyone?

As we make our way across the country, we want to experience different ways to get places – mass transportation. We live in an area in New Hampshire where traveling by automobile is the most convenient method. While in the Chicago area we had the opportunity to try many forms of transportation.


Lucas and Franklin riding the train for the first time in Chicago, IL.

We were staying in Union, Illinois and had to travel about 65 miles to get to Chicago. To go to Wrigley Field, our options were to drive into the city and find a place to park or to take the train. We decided to take the train from Crystal Lake (near Union) to the city. The train ride was smooth and quick. It took us about 50 minutes to arrive at our destination on the outskirts of Chicago. We then had to walk about a quarter of a mile to get to a bus stop. Once at the bus stop, we took the bus (remember to have plenty of change with you) to within a few blocks of Wrigley Field. The bus ride was jerky with the constant take CTA_bus_line_56offs and braking. There was nowhere to sit at first so we all stood. The bus was very crowded.

After our tour of Wrigley Field, we wanted to go into downtown near Museum Park. We took the transit train across town. Once we got to our stop we still had to walk almost a mile to our destination. The view of Chicago from the Park is very nice and worth the trip. Now tired of all the walking, we wanted to get dinner in downtown. We thought of the different options we had to get there – transit, bus, taxi or bike. The City bike sharing program is a nifty way to get around. You simply rent a bike from one station, ride to where you want to go and then just return at another station. This option does not work well however with small children. Taking the transit or bus meant that we would need to walk to the next station. We opted for taking a taxi.

My cousin introduced us to the “Uber” app when we were in Boston. This is a really cool app where you can essentially order your taxi from your phone. You can then track their location and know when they are about to arrive, plus it is YOUR taxi. They ask your name before you get in to confirm. You also pay through your smartphone so no need to carry a lot of cash.

Once we had our meal and finished walking around downtown, we decided it was time to head back. We looked at the schedules for the bus, transit and train to coordinate locations and times. That can be a chore when you are not used to the mass transit system. Due to the time constraint to make the train, we took a taxi to one of the stops, and sprinted to the train. We caught it just in time. Then we relaxed for the ride back to the vehicle.

Mass transit was expensive and a lot of time was spent on or waiting for the different modes of transportation. In retrospect, I think next time we will research discounted day passes and stick to one mass transportation system. This would be a better option. For example, drive closer to Chicago and get an all-day transit pass. The transportation systems we experienced in Chicago seem to be good for commuters or for those heading into the city for a special event. This was tough for us as sight-seeing tourists.

I would point out that we drove to Chicago two days later (both days were weekdays) to go to the Field Museum. We parked in the parking garage by Solider Field without too many difficulties with traffic. After the Museum (around 4:00 pm), we drove to see U.S. Cellular Field (home of the White Sox), then drove through the city to get dinner. The buildings and architecture are amazing! We parked right on the street. After dinner and a bit of walking, we drove home.

Overall, driving was definitely better and cheaper than the previous day.

September 19, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Recap of First 20 Days of Trip – The “Honeymoon” Phase

Hiking Jacob's Trail in MA with my parents.

Hiking Jacob’s Trail in MA with my parents.

Tuesday, September 16th (our 19-year wedding anniversary) marked the 20th day since we left New Hampshire on a trip to discover America for ourselves. As we travel through South Dakota, and a very different country side then what we have experienced to this point, I want to recap for you our adventures, which I am calling the “Honeymoon” Phase.

The landscape of South Dakota is dotted with cows and large rolls of hay. Off in the distance, I can see the mountains rising above the farms in the foreground. The kids are in the back seat of the truck excitedly discussing the views they see out their window since it is unlike any scenery they have seen before. We are on our way to Rapid City for one week. It will be good to stay in a location for several days since the first 20 days have been a bit of a whirlwind.

Jacob & Lucas try "snowboarding" at the Ecotarium in Worcester, MA.

Jacob & Lucas try “snowboarding” at the Ecotarium in Worcester, MA.

We left NH on August 27th and headed to MA for a five-day stay with my parents. Following a tearful departure, we started our school day routines.

After the kids wake and have breakfast, we start the day with morning exercise and chores. The kids then tackle a few hours of study followed by a half hour of free time. After lunch, studies continue then we have an afternoon activity or field trip, which almost always takes place outdoors unless it is raining. During supper, we have an activity called “praise and likes” where we each praise the other for something they did that day and share our favorite activity for the day. The kids enjoy this few minutes of reflection at the end of the day. We have one last evening activity after that and then the kids have free time until bed.

The routine has been challenging to keep over the past 20 days since the longest we have stayed in any one place since we left my parents in MA has been three days. Every other second or third day is spent on the road traveling between 350-400 miles before reaching our next destination.

States we have traveled through:

  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • South Dakota

Our campground/boon-docking stops have included:

  1. Lamb City Campground (Phillipston, MA)
  2. Harvest Hosts Abbott Farms (Baldwinsville, NY) – see Jacob’s review about our host Abbott Farms
  3. Streetsboro/Cleveland KOA (Streetsboro, OH)
  4. Chicago Northwest KOA (Union, IL)
  5. Dakotah Meadows (Prior Lake, MN)
  6. Jelly Stone Sioux Falls (Brandon, SD)
  7. Elk Creek Lodge & Resort (Piedmont, SD)

Our field trips/activities:

  1. Doane’s Falls hike in Royalston, MA
  2. Jacob’sHillhikeinRoyalston, MA (affectionately renamed the mushroom trail by Lucas)

    Key Tower is the tallest building in Cleveland, OH.

    Key Tower is the tallest building in Cleveland, OH.

  3. Visit to historic Winchedon, MA
  4. Ecotarium in Worcester, MA
  5. Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, MA – see Lucas’ review about the farm
  6. Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie in Erie, PA
  7. Trip to Cleveland, OH to see sites:
    • Progressive Field visit – home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team
    • FirstEnergy Stadium – home of the Cleveland Browns football team
    • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
    • Great Lakes Science Center
  8. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan in Dune Acres, IN
  9. Train ride/bus trip/subway ride into Chicago, IL to see sites:
    • Wrigley Field tour – home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team – see Jacob’s review about the tour
    • Soldier Stadium visit – home of the Chicago Bears football team
    • U.S. Cellular stadium visit – home of the Chicago White Sox baseball team (formerly Comiskey Park)
    • The Field Museum
    • Magnificent Mile
    • other downtown Chicago sites/restaurants/shops
  10. Mall of America in Bloomington, MN
  11. Trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul sites:
    • Wabasha Street Caves tour – learned about prohibition, mushroom farming and gangsters
    • Vikings Stadium visit – future home of the Minnesota Vikings football team
    • Target Field visit – home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team
    • St. Paul Cathedral tour – where Lucas said a prayer for people
    • Harriet Island Park on the Mississippi River
    • James J. Hill House tour and historic district
    • Fort Snelling Cemetery
    • Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

      Train ride to Chicago, IL to tour Wrigley Field.

      Train ride to Chicago, IL to tour Wrigley Field.

  12. Trip to Sioux Falls, SD to see sites:
    • Sioux Falls Park – like a mini Niagara Falls
    • Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum
    • U.S.S. South Dakota Memorial site

Rapid City, SD was the first destination where we decided we would spend at least a week. So the first 20 days were focused on getting to that destination with interesting stops along the way. The days just seemed to run together as we traveled to many cities to see sites and through two time zones, including today. Mondays are no longer the start of the week since we work and play every day. Each day is a learning opportunity and we make sure we take advantage of it. The trip thus far has felt more like one big vacation. This “honeymoon” phase is starting to wind down now as we stay longer at each destination.

In addition to core subjects like math, English and reading, the kids have also been studying U.S. History and Science & Nature, and each are recording their journeys in their own blogs. Jacob is also studying Sports Marketing and has thoroughly enjoyed the sports stadiums we have visited. Imagine a kid in a candy store located on cloud 9. That was Jacob. He will also be studying the History of Rap Music. Lucas will be studying Cooking in addition to his core subjects. Both kids will also study Social Action as we create awareness for our causes ALS and Hunger & Homelessness in America.

At Minnesota Twins baseball stadium.

At Minnesota Twins baseball stadium.

There have been very few issues. The generator was wired wrong but Ray fixed it. We had an issue with a wire getting caught when the slide out went out and in, but Ray found and repaired. A piece of wood molding came off, but Ray was able to fix. Outside lights were not working properly, but Ray was able to fix. Yes, Ray is very handy and will be extra handy by the time this trip is over.

We also had a fly infestation, which started in Chicago and ended once we hit colder weather in Sioux Falls, SD. We were having contests swatting them to see who could kill the most. Never had this problem camping in New England so we are unsure what caused so many flies to come inside the camper.

Sioux Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD.

Sioux Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD.

The cats are traveling well. They are loose in the truck on long trips but mostly rest inside their carriers. They take breaks when we do and get food, water and access to their litter box.

We have also met many interesting people. An ultimate list of the most interesting will be generated by Jacob towards the end of the trip. He is enjoying creating this list. It will be worth waiting for; I promise.

Most people have been very kind and helpful. One example is on our bus ride to Chicago. An older gentleman asked us about our upcoming trip to Wrigley Field, which he overheard us discussing with another passenger. He proceeded to reminisce about the forties and his memories of the ballpark as well as his days in the South Pacific serving during WWII. The bus stopped and we exited a few blocks west of the ballpark. I wished him well, shook his hand and thanked him for his service to our country. His smile said it all.

For up-to-date information on our trip across America, please follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

September 1, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Our Story Featured in Foster’s Daily Democrat

In mid August, Joel, a reporter, and Ryan, a photographer, from Foster’s Daily Democrat visited with us at Barrington Shores Campground to interview us and learn more The Bisson Family
about our upcoming trip. The result was a front page, long feature article about our journey and that of our friends the Nicols who are embarking on an adventure of their own by boat. The article was published the day we left New Hampshire, August 27th.

You can read the article on our In the News page.

August 27, 2014
by Traci Bisson

Saying Goodbye to New Hampshire

saying goodbye to NHThe last few days have been filled with many activities, including dinner and games with some very dear friends, a farewell brunch with BFFs, lunch with my favorite brother, and several campfires with s’mores as friends visited nightly at Barrington Shores Campground to wish us safe travels.

We said an emotional goodbye to New Hampshire on Wednesday, August 27th and headed for Lamb City Campground in Phillipston, Massachusetts. We are currently staying here with my parents. They will head home on September 2nd and we will continue our way west to brunch with BFFs2explore this great big country on our own. We are very fortunate to take with us all the love, support and prayers from friends and family.

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