Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 5: Unexpected Surprises

States Traveled: South Dakota and Wyoming

Weather: High Temp: 65        Low Temp: 55        Sunny and windy.  So windy in fact that because we were driving straight into the wind most of the day we got absolutely terrible gas mileage.

We feel like we have gotten the hang of packing up and heading out each morning.  Most of today was spent in South Dakota, with nothing specific on the agenda other than to get to our destination in Wyoming with enough time to let the kids expend some of their extra energy.  Last night we discovered that the famed Wall Drug was on our way and at a perfect distance from the start of our day to stop for a lunch break.

About 30 miles before Wall, SD, we saw a sign for the Badlands Scenic Loop road that conveniently ended at Wall.  We made a quick decision that we had plenty of time for a detour thanks to gaining an hour to our day by passing into Mountain Time.  That means we are now 2 hours behind the east coast (please keep that in mind when calling us!).  What a fantastic decision that was!  We entered Badlands National Park and made a couple of quick photo stops while driving the loop.  The beauty of the Badlands can't be put into words, so I will just show you these photos instead.  If we are friends on Facebook, you can find even more photos there, including family photos, in my CT to AK trip album.

Afterward, we all had lunch at Wall Drug (buffalo burgers, of course!) and then wandered the store.  It held quite an eclectic combination of attractions, from a roaring animatronic T-rex to jumping fountains and the usual cowboy

Tomorrow we are headed to Yellowstone!  We found out that the entrance we had planned to go through is currently closed during the day because they got over 2 feet of new snow last week, causing an avalance danger when the sun warms it up.  We have to re-route and go up through Montana and back down into the North Entrance of the park, which conveniently puts us at the entrance closest to the place we will be staying.  Unfortunately, it also means that the half-day we planned to spend in the park while driving through it to get to our cabin won't be happening.  Semper Paratus!  We will not have wifi in the park for the next 2 days, so I will blog from my phone if I can and then add more once we have internet access again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 4: The longest driving day on our route

States Traveled: IL, WI, MN, SD
Weather:  High Temp: 90        Low Temp: 73          Sunny and very windy

Today was the longest drive that we have on our itinerary.  We traveled 570 miles in about 10 hours, and everyone did surprisingly well.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, because when we have driven to FL from CT we usually cover about 600 miles in a day.  We were sad to leave Chicago and wish we had planned more time there.  Now we know where to stop next time!  The beginning of our drive today, thorugh IL and part of WI, was relatively boring with not much interesting scenery.  The Wisconsin Dells (which is national waterpark central, I had no idea) had a few nice rock formations.  After that came the Mississippi River, which looked to be bursting over its banks.  The rest of Minnesota was mostly flat and full of farms.  We stopped at a rest area for lunch (which happened to have a playground!) and were nearly blown over by the wind.  We thought it may be due to an approaching storm, but as soon as we got back on the road we came upon several wind farms, with windmills as far as the eye could see.  Guess that means wind is a common occurance!

Tonight we are enjoying an extended-stay hotel suite with a separate bedroom, plus a free laundry area.  There are tornado watches and storms headed our way, so we will be sticking close to "home."

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's drive, as we will end up in Wyoming.  I remember some of the most colorful scenery from our last cross-country journey being there.  After that, it's on to Yellowstone!
Be sure to revisit the Chicago post...I added some more photos.

In the Wisconsin Dells

The Mississippi River, at the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota

Wind farm in Minnesota

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 3: Chicago!

States traveled: OH, IN, IL
Weather: high temp 65    low temp 56
We only had 4 hours to drive today to get to Chicago. The weather was not as forcasted, and it was foggy and raining when we arrived. Luckily, our hotel room was ready do we checked in and enjoyed the amenities after lunch at a brewery across the street. The kids swam in the pool and the adults took turns in the gym (all on the 17th floor overlooking the city).  By the late afternoon the weather cleared, so we took a free trolley to the Navy Pier. Now we are waiting on a delivery of pizza from a pizzaria that was so busy that waiting for delivery was faster than waiting to eat there. I will add more later on about our day. We love Chicago!
Tomorrow is our longest driving day...570 miles to Sioux Falls, SD.

The above photos are from my phone.  Here are some better ones!

We now know why they call it "the windy city"

The only photo the little man let me take of himself...throwing popcorn at dad

The. Best. Pizza.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day Two: CT to AK

States Traveled: PA, OH (stopped in Perrysburg, outside of Toledo)
Weather: High Temp: 76       Low Temp: 61         Sun and clouds, but no rain

Today was a pretty uneventful day.  We took our time getting the car re-packed and had breakfast at our hotel before hitting the road.  Even moving a leisurely pace, we still left at 7:30 since Little Man wakes up so early (6am!).  Trying not to thing about the time zone changes coming up, meaning that he will be waking even earlier!

We had a picnic at a rest stop in PA for lunch and arrived at our hotel in Perrysburg around 4:15.  The kids watched DVDs most of the day, and everyone is doing well so far.  I didn't expect a chorus of, "Are we there yet" this early on, but the little guy is definitely not old enough to understand how long 16 days actually is.

Tomorrow we only have a 4-hour drive to Chicago, where we plan to wander around for the afternoon and evening (and eat some pizza!).

Editing in to add: After dinner at Cracker Barrel tonight, The Nana and The LT decided to run in to a liquor store for a bottle of wine and emerged with a full box of assorted bottles.  Guess that even though the past two days have been relatively smooth, they are preparing for the chance that it could get worse.  Much worse.  Let's just say that a certain 3-year-old boy definitely has the potential to make some of us a little crazy.  Now we have to shove all of the bottles into the already overflowing car...and make sure they are all emptied before we cross into Canada next week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day One CT to AK

States covered: CT, RI (airport run to get The Nana), CT, NY, PA
Weather: High temp: 90     Low Temp: 62       Partly cloudy

This is LT for the first post of the trip.The first day went well. We picked Nana up in RI and drove to PA. We stopped for lunch at a gas station in western CT. Good trip so far with only a small amout of “are we to AK yet?"  This is the princess, who passed out right before we got to the hotel.

~This is the Mama editing in to add a few more photos.  Looks like we need to give the LT a lesson on how to use his new phone camera...sorry the above photo is upside down...I promise we don't have her buckled in the car that way!
We may have overestimated the amount of stuff the car can hold...and have filled every available space.  Maybe I shouldn't have packed every short-sleeved shirt I own just because they would all fit in my bag...

The troops getting The Nana at the airport

Tomorrow we are headed to Ohio.  We will have about 7 hours of driving.  As I type this, the the kids and I are all in the hotel room while The Nana and The LT have escaped to the hotel restaurant so they don't disturb the kids while they are trying ot go to sleep.  Okay, maybe "trying to get to sleep" is not the right phrase.  Maybe "making elephant noises and trying to cause trouble from their beds" is a more accurate description.  This having everyone in one room at night has the potential to get old really fast.  Good thing we have some extended-stay hotels booked soon with separate bedrooms!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ready To Go

We are spending our last night in CT before starting our journey. That means we are camping on air mattresses and have no internet, so I am writing this from my phone. If it works well, I will be doing it this way on the road.

Today the whole gang got hair cuts, and we spent time in the fog at the play ground before heading to our favorite family restaurant, Paul's Pasta, for dinner. We have been eating there since the LT was a cadet, and they have seen the kids grow over our time here. Going in tonight for the last time made me realize how much we are going to miss our home here and everything that has become so familiar to us.

The car is half loaded and will be finished up in the morning. Then it's on to the airport to pick up the LT's mom (aka The Nana), who has requested to make the cross-country adventure with us. We are so glad to have her along, both for her company and having an extra pair of hands to help out with driving and kid meltdowns.  First stop, Pennsylvania!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eight Years of Adventure

Today is the eighth anniversary of the Nomadic Newells as a family unit.  Leave it to me to be so preoccupied with what was on the moving agenda today that The LT was actually the first to realize what the occasion was, about an hour after we all started our day.  Out of the 8 anniversaries we have celebrated, this is the third one (along with our wedding) that has occured during a move.  We decided it was unfair to a sitter to ask her to watch the kids in an empty house, so we are going to wait until we get to Homer to celebrate.  Today we went on a family date to a playground at the beach in Niantic and then to East Coast Taco for dinner.  Very romantic!
 Guess it's time to teach one of the kids to use the camera phone so we we can avoid self-portraits.

We are finally starting to feel like we're on vacation.  The LT finished up work at the CGA on Friday, earning his first Coast Guard Commendation Medal.

After 22 hours total of packing and loading (by 1.5 moving guys), our household goods are finally on their way to Alaska.  We have been told that they are going via ship from New Jersey...so no wonder we won't see them again for up to 2 months!  One of our cars is also on a ship, making its trek.  We had to drive it to Edison, New Jersey, which is an 8 hour round-trip drive from our house.  Let's just say that we are choosing to forget that day entirely.  Our "unaccompanied baggage" (aka cookware and a bin of toys meant to get us through at the new house until the rest of our stuff arrives) was picked up today...but we were told that it is also riding the slow boat.  Guess we will be dining out for many, many, many nights in the next few months.  We have one more pick-up tomorrow of the furniture we will be sending to storage for the time we are in Homer.  We are happily down-sizing our living space, so we don't need as much stuff to fill it.

The dog has started to get nervous that we are leaving him behind, so we had him watch us put his kennel in the car.  Two more days in CT and then we hit the road!  We will have wifi for the whole trip aside from the two nights we are spending in Yellowstone National Park, so we intend to update the blog daily with favorite highlights from our travels.  Stay tuned!  First stop, outside of Scranton, PA.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Things, CT Edition (#3)

We managed to squeeze two of our favorite places into one sunny morning (double bonus, because now the kids are napping soundly so I can write this!).  First Bluff Point, and then Alice Acres Farm Market and Greenhouses.  We have been visiting Alice Acres each summer and fall for a few years now (far back enough that our now-5-year-old nicknamed it the "mooie" farm since that was her 18-month-old way of saying "cow").  Farmer Jean knows us well, and Farmer Pete (the owner) always stops to chat with us about his animals and his time spent years ago as an Alaskan fisherman.  Today we were lucky enough to receive golden coins from Farmer Pete good for a free ice cream at the attached shop, Cows and Cones.  Guess that means we get to go back for another visit before we move!

We love going to Alice Acres to wander.  Farmer Pete keeps cows, chickens (with a rouge duck who has moved in- aptly named "Chickaduck" by the kids), sheep, pigs, and a rabbit.  He allows the public to visit freely with his animals, which is why we like to visit so often.  The grounds are beautiful, and it's a great place to run out some extra energy.  I also love wandering through the five greenhouses brimming with flowering plants, veggies, and herbs.  The greenhouses seem to be more full this year than I remember from the past few seasons.  It is so hard to resist buying any plants this year--but since we won't have time to see them grow, it doesn't make much sense.  We will really miss this place!

A Few of Our Favorite Things, CT Edition (#2)

Since The LT was out of town for Mothers' Day, the munchkins and I decided to take advantage of a beautiful morning by visiting a couple of our favorite places.  One frequent request is to go to the "beach park" and throw rocks in the water.  That's our name for Bluff Point in Groton.  Being from Florida where nearly all beaches are free (and sandy) aside from putting a few quarters in the parking meters, we never quite adjusted to the beaches in Connecticut that require a per-person or per-car daily use fee.  We quickly discovered Bluff Point, and go there often.  It's not a great place for swimming, but we don't ever intend to swim at beaches up here anyway...the water is too cold year round for anyone in our family except the dog.

Bluff Point offers plenty of entertainment, aside from the rock-throwing.  It's adjacent to a small airport, so the kids enjoy a couple of take-offs or landings while we are there.  It has a great trail system that I like to run, and it is also frequented by plenty of dog-walkers and equestrians, giving the kids even more to get excited about.  Completing the 1.5 mile trek out to the point rewards you with spectacular views of the New London Ledge Light, Long Island Sound, and plenty of ferry boat traffic.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Drowning in To-do Lists

Semper Paratus.  Always ready.  That's the Coast Guard motto.  But a well-known unofficial motto among Coast Guard spouses is Semper Gumby.  Always flexible.  And it is so true.  You really do just have to try to go with the flow, and never be surprised when things don't go as planned. It applies from everything to ship schedules, duty days, orders to new duty stations, and especially government moves.  I have to remind myself that it will all work out in the end somehow, even if it's not the way we originally thought.

So here we are, exactly three weeks until we pack the car and head west.  The LT has been away at training for his new job for the past two weeks. I have been trying to keep us all organized and on track, hoping that I am not forgetting anything but knowing that I probably am.  Oh well, whatever it is, it must not matter that much, right?

We have three separate shipments of our household goods being picked up, and of course three separate companies are handling it.  One load is called "unaccompanied baggage" and will contain all of the stuff that we will want right away to make camping out in our new home a comfy as possible (clothes, cookware, small TV, folding table and chairs, etc.)  They send this stuff "express" in hopes that it gets to Alaska around the same time that we do.

We also have stuff we are sending to storage because it won't fit in the new house.  They call this "non-temp storage" and it is only authorized for overseas moves.  We can't access it until we transfer again, so we better be sure about what we're sending.  I think they store it somewhere around our current location, but I'm not positive because we haven't heard from whichever company is handling it yet.  Yikes.  Apparently they have up until 3 days before our requested pick-up date to contact us.  As a planner, that is not an acceptable rule to me, but I can't change it.  So hopefully we hear from them soon or we are going to have a dining room table, guest room furniture, and some other stuff hanging out in our otherwise empty house.

Then there's the rest, or our "household goods."  The company handling that shipment contacted us yesterday, and so far we are pleasantly surprised with their service, which is great.  They even have an online tracking system so we will know exactly where our stuff is.  Let's hope for smooth sailing for the barge from Seattle so one of our tracking lines doesn't read, "Container jumped ship in the Gulf of Alaska."  That would be my worst fear.  The only bad thing is that the packers are coming 5 days earlier than we requested.  We now have no more weekends left with both The LT and I home at the same time to tackle a very long to-do list.  We will also be getting packed up on a Thursday and Friday and then living among the boxes for a weekend before they pick up on Monday.  Then we have 4 days of camping in the empty house before we hit the road.  But with 16 nights in hotels to follow, I think staying in our empty house may be better than adding on extra days of sharing a room with the kids and dog.  Then of course we have to wait for our stuff on the other end.  The moving company gives a date that it is guaranteed by...that date is August 8!!  That's up to six more weeks of camping after we arrive in Homer.  They assure me that it shouldn't take that long (last time I believe it was about 5 weeks from the time they picked up), but they are fined for each late day so they give themselves plenty of wiggle room.

Now that the to-do list is made, I suppose I should get to work on it rather than be sitting here on the back deck in the sun enjoying my lunch.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Things, CT Edition (#1)

If the countdown wasn't on before, it is now!  We have 26 days until we hit the road.  It's time to revisit our favorite local spots one (or two or three) last time.  Today we gave the kids free reign over our morning activity.  They chose to go "boat floating" at a local nature preserve that we love.  Dad dons his Xtra Tuffs and waits downstream while the kids toss their little boats (dollar Wal-Mart specials that are easily replaced) off a wooden bridge.  Dad then scrambles over the rocky shore to intercept the boats before they are washed away.  It is really more of an agility test for him, and a chance to "accidentally" get muddy for the kids.  Usually this is a no-moms-allowed activity, but I managed to tag along today to document the process.