Under Construction!

construction_kidsRenovation seems to be very popular right now. Chances are, if you’re not involved in your own remodeling project right now, you’re helping someone else with theirs… or at least watching a stranger’s on TV. Though we’re not usually the type to follow trends, it just so happens that we have our own little renovation project underway. We’re gutting and rebuilding our website. It’s less expensive and messy than remodeling our kitchen and hopefully less time consuming. The kitchen we have currently meets our needs (mostly… sometimes there are too many science experiments happening when it’s time to make dinner, but ya’ know…) but our current blog isn’t keeping up with our ideas and plans.

So it’s time for something new. And actually what we’re doing is less like a renovation of a current space and more like buying a plot of land and building our own thing. We’ll be moving from the WordPress.com environment which is free (and we like free!) but limited. Staffan is hard at work writing code and I’m so thankful for his skills because the trial runs look great! Meanwhile I’m typing away trying to fill the pretty spaces with written words that someone might want to read. It’s a team effort and so far we’re pretty satisfied with the results. We can’t wait to launch it and see what everyone else thinks!

Thanks in advance for your patience with the messy parts of transition (at least it’s not drywall dust – that stuff gets everywhere!). We hope our current followers will continue following us, and when our new space is ready to launch we’ll let you know how to stay with us.

Return to Pennsylvania

This is the last post describing what we lovingly refer to as “The Big Trip”. For those of you who have followed the whole journey, thank you for your patience in all the time that living life has made it hard to find time to write. If you’re new, we welcome you to read older posts about this amazing trip that changed our lives. While we started this blog as a way to document this particular trip, we have big plans for it in the future! So stay tuned, because the Lindstroms are definitely staying “on the road”!

On Sunday, November 18, we buckled the kids in the car in Virginia and started the final leg of the trip, back to Hatboro, PA, where we’d started the trip exactly 91 days earlier. There were those who said we were crazy to undertake such a journey. There were those who predicted we would give up and turn around after a few weeks. After 13 weeks, we could honestly say that we’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

But it was too dramatic and extraordinary a trip to just fade quietly into the night. Or perhaps more accurately, that’s exactly what happened on that last drive. We suddenly had problems with the wiring to the trailer, so that the lights weren’t working properly. We were so close to the finish line, to suddenly have electrical problems was frustrating. But even though we were so close, the sun was going down, and we knew that I95 between Baltimore and Philadelphia is no place to drive in the dark with an unlit trailer. The only solution we were able to find, finally, was to connect the trailer to the hazard lights and blink our way home. And so the last two hours of our trip were filled with the clicking and blinking of hazard lights. Perhaps that is as it should be.

It was hard to process the full impact of our adventure right away, as we filled our last few weeks in the US with visiting friends, celebrating Thanksgiving with family, and last minute shopping trips. It was a wonderful way to conclude our journey. We have the rest of our lives to discover all the ways that we grew, changed, and bonded as a family as a result of this experience. We will never be the same.

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“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered” – Nelson Mandela

The Nation’s Capital

On the road again to our last destination: northern Virginia and Washington DC. I have a cousin* in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC that I hadn’t seen for years, so it was time for a visit. We arrived at their house on a Friday evening and spent the evening catching up. We met her husband for the first time, and helped him explore his Swedish heritage. He learned to say “Ge hit en öl till annars bränner jag ner er by,” which means “Give me another beer or I’ll burn down your village.” Like a viking, I suppose. He tried calling a bar in Stockholm so he could say that and see what they’d say, but international calling was disabled on his phone. Probably for the best. His pronunciation was pretty good though.

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With my cousin Carolyn outside her lovely home in Virginia

Saturday we explored our nation’s capital. We walked up to Capitol Hill and around the Washington Monument before deciding to skip the attractions that we adults had already seen before and the kids were too young to understand or appreciate. We set our sights on the Smithsonian museums – they’re free, they’re fun and they’re educational. It was a good choice. We had a great day at the Museum of Natural History.

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Peter and the Capitol Building

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Getting directions to a visitor’s center so we could stamp the
National Park passports one last time

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Pappa’s shoulders are much warmer to sit on than that stone!

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The Smithsonian Museums are truly a national treasure!

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So curious, and so much to learn!

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The dinosaur exhibit showed differences between dinosaur feet and human feet, particularly number of toes. Emelie wasn’t satisfied to count the toes in the picture, or even on Pappa’s already bare feet (flip flops as usual!). She sat right down and insisted on removing her shoes and socks to count HER toes. Ok, 10. They were right.

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The last exhibit we had time for that day involved petting and holding exotic insects.       My girl is fascinated and unafraid. 

Sunday we went to church with my cousin before packing up our things, hooking up the trailer and hitting the road one last time. After 91 days covering over 12,000 miles of road, it was time to head back to Pennsylvania.

*Other side of the family this time… so cousin actually means cousin. As in, the daughter of my father’s brother.

Lower-Slower Delaware

Continuing north, we left the I95 corridor and headed for the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It was the closest and fastest route, and I remember crossing it as a kid and thinking it was really fun. Though the tolls were a bit steep with the trailer, it was a welcome break from miles of endless interstate. Both bridges and tunnels are exciting for kids in the car, and the CBBT offers about 20 miles of both. (More information: http://www.cbbt.com/)

It was extremely windy and cold when we reached the restaurant and gift shop area so we chose to take our picnic lunch inside. We sat by the window and watched the Chesapeake birds as we ate. Emelie and Pappa braved the fishing pier for a closer look, while Mamma and Peter enjoyed the shelter of the gift shop.

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Yes, he’s barefoot. Again.

After crossing the Chesapeake, we continued north into southern Delaware, which we affectionately refer to as “Lower-Slower” Delaware. We have cousins* who live on a beautiful rural plot of land bordering a state park there. They have turkeys and guinea hens, and in November, big piles of leaves to jump in. We enjoyed visiting with relatives and the kids had a blast exploring their yard.

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“Napping” in the hammock with a leaf pillow and a leaf blanket

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Our plan had been to set up the camper in their yard and continue sleeping outside, but the weather turned so much colder that the space heater just couldn’t keep up with the uninsulated tent walls of the pop-up. We reluctantly admitted that it was time to move inside and gratefully accepted the guest room.

*Not my first cousins, but my mom’s. We have great relationships with extended family on that side of the family and see them regularly. It’s not always easy, though, to figure out exactly how everyone’s related, so we decided years ago that we’re all just cousins. It’s easier that way!

Heading North, part 2: North Carolina

While we weren’t the least bit tired of traveling or being on the road, we were a little tired of being tourists. The weather, though it had stopped raining, had turned colder and we weren’t inspired to head to any of South Carolina’s beaches. We also decided not to head in to Charleston but instead chose a leisurely morning at the campground and then got back on I95 heading north. We reasoned that the East Coast is a lot easier for us to come back to if we want to see anything that we missed.

We had a nice day, but little of it is blog-worthy. Nice conversations in the car, taking our time over lunch at a rest stop, not feeling hurried or pressured to see and do all that can be seen and done.

The increasingly colder weather was helping us process the change of seasons happening for us as well as in the world around us, and the hours in the car gave us plenty of time to start talking about what comes next.

Year-round campgrounds got harder to find as we headed north, but we found a KOA in Enfield, North Carolina that was still open and we stopped for the night. It was a bit drizzly and cold cooking dinner outside, and we woke up to the first frost we’d seen since Yellowstone. And, though we didn’t know it at the time, this was our last night in Home Sweet Pop-up.

Campground Review Enfield/Rocky Mount KOA:
Price: I forgot to note how much we paid, but the website shows a rate of about $35-$40 per night for a pop-up the size of ours.
Location: There isn’t much locally, but it is convenient to I95 and according to the website they are the only KOA between Fredriksburg, VA and Point South (where we’d stayed the night before). I imagine most of their business is overnight stays as people travel up and down I95.
Facilities: This one one of the smaller KOAs we’d stayed at. The pool was closed for the season. Use of the kitchen cost extra, so we braved the weather with our camp stove. The bathrooms and showers were fine.
Site-description: Grassy-field style.
Neighborhood: Practically deserted on a cold weekday in the off-season.
Website: http://koa.com/campgrounds/enfield/
Comments: The “free wifi” was time limited (an hour, I believe) and restricted by a code to one device, so no getting on with both a smart phone and a laptop. I hope that they have since changed this policy.

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A beautiful but cold morning waking up in North Carolina

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Heading North, part 1: South Carolina

Despite all of the twists and turns we encounter in more than 12,000 miles of road, we often talked about our big trip having 4 main turns. We started by turning WEST in Pennsylvania, and though we wove around to see sights and visit friends, our general direction was west. When we reached the Pacific we made a giant left turn and started heading SOUTH along the West Coast. When we reached Mexico, we made our next big left turn and started driving EAST. Now, in Daytona Beach, we’d reached the Atlantic Coast. It was time for the last big left turn. Time to drive NORTH.

There was a vague restlessness in our camp that morning. After nearly 3 months on the road, moving every 2-3 days, we had developed some pretty good routines for breaking camp and getting on the road. But that morning, nothing seemed right. We were tired, a bit irritable, and lacked motivation. Eventually we had packed everything, hooked up the trailer, and buckled the kids into their car seats. We got in the car, looked at each other, and Staffan said, “North?”. It was then the reality started to sink in. NORTH was the last big turn. Once we made that turn, we were heading home. Something monumental was ending. For a brief moment we considered going west again instead, though we understood all the reasons why that wasn’t really an option. With heavy hearts, we made the last big left turn. North.

Not long after we got on the road, it started to rain. We’d been traveling for about 3 months but had only encountered rain a few times, and never in ways that interfered with our plans. Now the skies opened and the forecast assured us that this was not just a passing shower. It was almost poetic how the weather matched our moods, as if nature was mourning with us.

When we reached the Savannah, Georgia area, where we had tentatively planned to stop for the night, the rain hadn’t slowed and the wind blew cold. There were still several hours until bedtime, and while we had a small DVD player with us for such situations, we didn’t think it would keep the kids happily entertained and contained in the camper for that long. They seemed calm and content to be in the car and so we kept on driving.

We stopped for the night at the Point South KOA in Yemassee, South Carolina after a monumental yet uneventful day.

Campground Review Point South KOA:
Price: $44/night, which we felt was a little high for the off-season
Location: There’s not much in the area in terms of tourism but it is a beautiful area and the campground isn’t far from I95. It’s about 50 miles from Savannah and 60 miles from Charleston, so it could be reasonable to stay there and take day-trips to both cities.
Facilities: Most of the “extras” were closed for the off-season so it’s hard to comment, but we found the bathroom facilities to be perfectly adequate and they had a nice playground.
Site-description: Mixture of sand and grass, not strange for the Lowcountry. Plenty of trees.
Neighborhood: We didn’t have too many neighbors on a chilly, rainy weekday in November. Mostly retired long-term Rvers
Website: http://www.pointsouthkoa.com/
Comments: They advertise all kinds of other activities, like pizza delivery, wine tastings, and a coffee house, but on our one-night stay, we did not see or take advantage of any of these.

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Dayton Beach KOA – Campground Review

Since our friends were in a housing transition and staying with family, it was important to us to be able to visit with our friends at our campsite rather than expect them to host us. The Daytona Beach KOA gave us a great location to be able to do that. Here’s our campground review (spoiler alert: it’s a good one)

Price: $70 for 2 nights (not including KOA member discount)
Location: convenient to most Daytona Beach attractions. It’s not walking distance to the beach, but according to the website, it’s the closest campground to the beach.
Facilities: Great playground and a good laundry room. Bathroom and shower facilities were nothing special but perfectly adequate.
Site-description: Grassy sites with plenty of trees. The sites were also larger than what we experienced at many KOAs.
Neighborhood: November is obviously far from peak season, but on the weekend there were still a number of other campers in a variety of ages with a variety of camping styles.
Website: http://koa.com/campgrounds/daytona-beach/
Comments: Fire rings are not included in the cost of the site, but cost $1 per day to rent.

Funny story about the fire rings: A couple that was tent camping on a neighboring site had read ahead of time that fire rings had to be rented for an additional fee. So they decided to buy their own fire ring to take with them. Once they had assembled it and used it for the weekend (literally 2 fires on 2 nights), they realized that they couldn’t fit the assembled ring back into their car to take it home with them. So they gave it to us and we happily accepted it. But for them, I’m pretty sure that renting for $2 would have been a better deal.

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Daytona Beach

Jess and I met in college. We had the same major, the same minor, shared faith and a lot of common interests. We were fast friends. After graduation, she headed off to teach as a missionary in Ecuador, and except for an occasional email, we lost touch for a while. A few years later, she was married to an Ecuadorian man and we reconnected over the headaches involved with sponsoring our foreign husbands through the American immigration system. One more thing we had in common. Oceans and time zones have made it difficult to stay in touch regularly but we have always been able to pick up where we left off whenever we do reconnect.

We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years, since we were wearing caps and gowns. I had never met her husband. We’d never seen each other’s children. The most exciting part about re-routing our trip through Florida was the chance to pass through Daytona Beach. We happily made plans to get together.

We made it to Daytona Beach on a Saturday afternoon, checked in to the Daytona Beach KOA, and set camp. Jess, David and little Matthias joined us soon and we headed out to get pizza and catch up. We could probably have sat at that table and talked until they closed, if not for the three very tired little people we had with us.

Sunday morning we went to church with them, grabbed a quick lunch and then headed to the beach. There was something satisfying about a dip in the Atlantic, making it official that we had literally been coast to coast on our trip. Perhaps even more satisfying was sitting on a sunny beach in November, well after the first snows had fallen at home in Sweden.

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If you live this close to the beach, you have plenty of sand toys to share with friends

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We ended the day back at the KOA, cooking dinner and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. In other words, perfectly. The sun went down, the bugs came out, but still we sat “just a little longer.”

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Look! We’re riding a horse together!

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Eventually, the needs of our little people forced us to reluctantly end the evening. It was more than sadness at saying goodbye to friends we rarely get to see. We both sensed a deeper loss, as though something was ending…

Gulf Coast part 2: the Florida Panhandle

Continuing east into Florida, we stopped and spent a night at the Tallahassee East KOA campground. We had plans to meet up with friends in Daytona Beach for the weekend, so we did not take time to see or do anything in the area.
Here’s our review:

Price: $33/night after KOA member rebate
Location: Convenient to I-10 in the Tallahassee area.
Facilities: Great shower and bathroom facilities. The common room was comfortable, with armchairs and sofas like a family living room, and I sat there to work on updating our blog. I would have preferred to be able to sit in the camper, but the internet access didn’t extend out to the campsites, so that was a drawback. The playground was a little old and rundown, but since the ground was like one big sandbox, our kids were content to play around the campsite.
Site-description: Sand with some grass (the way it often is in areas where there is more sand that dirt on the ground); well-shaded with plenty of trees.
Neighborhood: A nice mixture of families and retired couples. No problems with noise or partying from other campers.
Website: http://koa.com/campgrounds/tallahassee/
Comments: This campground offered baked goods at check in, and free continental breakfast including freshly made waffles on the weekends. But since this is no longer mentioned on their website, though, they may have stopped offering it. We would also recommend camping further away from the road. For us, the road noise was a drawback of this campground.

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