Almost heaven

West Virginia, Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah river.  Any John Denver fans?  I’ve never seen John Denver fans like the ones I saw at a country music festival in Wiesbaden Germany…that was trippy.  But that’s a different story.

We were leaving southwestern Pennsylvania and on our way to West Virginia so Country Roads was definitely on my brain.  Right after leaving Ohiopyle and getting on the highway we saw several signs warning that dangerous mountains lie ahead.  The signs suggested that trucks pull over at the top of the mountain to do a safety check and study the map which showed runaway truck ramps.  I asked the Beast if she was ready to show Pennsylvania how Colorado drivers handle a mountain with 14,000 lbs dragging along behind…she purred along as if to say, “bring it on!”  It was a steep hill for sure but between that Allison transmission in low gear and the exhaust brakes we did just fine!
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What is there to do in Ohiopyle State Park?  That’s what we were wondering, so we did what any tourists would do and we asked the park rangers at the campground office.  The ranger was super helpful and provided a map and circled several “must see” locations for us.  The first on our list were the water slides.  This was the one thing my friend had mentioned to me…that there were some natural water slides.  We arrived at an empty parking lot then followed the wooden stairs down to the river.  I’m not sure what the rest of the family had go through their minds but my brain processed something about like this “nu uh, no way….that is a whitewater death trap…nobody in their right mind would get in that raging torrent….no thank you!”  None of the kids seemed too excited to get in the water so maybe I wasn’t alone.  They threw some sticks in intending to watch them float down stream only to have them completely devoured by the frothing white water never to be seen coming out the bottom.  Just about the time we all agreed that we would not be sliding down this river a dude shows up in swim trunks!

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What’s that screeching sound?

We’ve been doing some long travel days as we near the end of our time out on the road.  We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there…hey, that would make a good song lyric 😉  Since we like to stay in an area for 3 or 4 days we’re doing longer drive days and skipping some stuff in between.  Today’s drive was from Niagara to southwestern Pennsylvania to a state park called Ohiopyle.  Have you ever heard of it?  I sure hadn’t, but a friend of mine from PA gave it high marks.  We weren’t sure if it was pronounced o-HI-o-pile or o-hee-O-ple but we were heading there anyway.

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Ava breaks a leg

Our stay in Philadelphia was short but we had reservations at Liberty Harbor in Jersey City for our NYC visit so we had to move on.  We were all packed up and were just raising the front end of Ava with the landing gear to get her hitched up to the Beast when Caden stopped and said, “Uh….Papa….its making that weird sound again”.  The weird sound he was referring to was first heard all the way back in Fort Davis TX when we’d sheared a pin off the shaft that runs to the follow leg of the landing gear.  I opened the hatch to check the pins and found them in tact.  But to be safe I decided to crank Ava up by hand again.  I had only made a couple of revolutions with the crank when CLUNK…Ava’s right leg gives out and the whole camper drops several inches on that side.  Caden assessed the situation correctly, “hmmmm, that doesn’t seem good”.
Yup...that's bad!

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While we were in Philadelphia Steph and the kids spent some time in the Ben Franklin museum.  I found a shaded bench and took a little time to get some work done.  While I was working an older gentleman in a suit came over and asked if I would share the bench.  “Of course!”  I told him and moved all our backpacks and water bottle out of the way so he could sit.  He parked his camera bag and cane down next to himself to “give the legs a little rest”.  I could tell Enrique was attending a conference as he had his name badge hanging on a lanyard around his neck.

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Phillie in a day

Our buddy Anthony who we met back in Shenendoah National Park had emailed us a recommendation for Timberlane Campground in New Jersey but just 30 minutes from Philadelphia.  So we made a reservation for 2 nights as a basecamp for a full day to explore Phillie.  The campground was nice and quiet and Brielle found two girls, Naomi and Kaylin, about her age who she played with every free moment we had at home.  These two sisters raced BMX bikes and so Brielle raced around the campground with them on her pretty pink bike and princess helmet.
Naomi, Brielle and Kaylin
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Philly fun!

I feel like no matter how much research I do before we visit somewhere, A. I never get all the info that would be nice to know. B.everything kind of changes, or we find out a new or better way to do it.  So we go with the flow and I try super hard to realize we can’t do it all.

Biggest thing to note about Philly – it is hard to find drinking fountains/water. I’ll cover that at the end.

I have learned it is always best to go to the visitor’s center first!! I didn’t even consider the school groups would take all the spots on the different tours (like Independence Hall!) Luckily we got spots on the last tour of the day (4:30) and that was before 10am!

The line to the Liberty Bell was long and not moving at all, so the tour group in front of us decided to peek thru a window. We decided to follow suit.

I have learned on the trip we love learning about the various POTUS we have had so on to Ben Franklin square. I loved how they have an outline of his original house, but I totally missed it until Huck pointed it out. I thought we were just going under arches or something.

I love the creativity and ingenuity most of our finding father’s had. Ben Franklin was no exception. The museum is very fun and very hands on which my kids love! I love when the kids make various connections too. They’ve learned a lot these 5 months. I can’t keep it straight, but I’m so glad they can!

I had never heard of the armonica. I didn’t know his love of kites not only helped with electrical experiments, but he also did the first kite sailing!! And he invented hand swim paddles. I’m glad we’ve made improvements there…. His look awkward and heavy, the ones we used in swim team were much better! But I love that he experimented with such a variety of ideas and subjects! We watched a very interesting short movie about the printing press that had a demonstration. There were model ink blotters and other items to view.

Fortunately the museum found us close to the suggested places for a Philly cheese steak sandwich. Caden and I both had that on our list to try!  They were yummy! We tried several varieties…. One with whiz, most had provolone and the works 🙂

We toured Ben’s printing press after lunch. Fortunately we watched a short film on the museum because a school group took up the whole room so we could not see well. Turns out they shorten the program this time of year too because of the groups. We were able to ask a few questions about the binding process that was in another room before the next group took over.

The kids had earned their Jr ranger badges, so we headed back to get those before our last tour. The good part about that was the line to the bell was short so we went in and saw it up close. 🙂
Liberty Bell

The day ended with our tour of Independence Hall. I was glad we had learned about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution elsewhere, because our tour guide was pretty hard to understand. Our poor kids asked what he had said after the whole thing was over. Oy! Luckily they understood where we were and could look around and enjoy being there!

Penn's Landing



Digital printing


At Ben's



Philly Cheesesteak

Abe and JFK


Printing press





Jr Rangers

Liberty Bell

Independence Hall front



Continental Congress meeting hall

Independence Hall back

Kids at the bar

At Timberlane Campground

Naomi, Kaylin and Brielle


Naomi, Brielle and Kaylin

Remember in the beginning I said it was hard to find water to drink?!? On our way out the visitors center I looked for a drinking fountain as our water bottles were empty, but I didn’t see one. We stood in the 20-30 min security line for the second time. I thought there would be drinking fountains. None. So I was very thirsty at the end of our tour. We tried finding water in 7-11 or any other place with a fountain or sodas. None. Until Huck (who doesn’t drink) walked into a bar. The bartender was soooo sweet and happily filled all our water bottles. The water tasted like dirt, but it was cold and wet. Should I be worried Dacen looks so excited to be getting a drink in a bar?!?
Kids at the bar



At Least They Still Have Their Cheese Steak

I don’t really like big cities what with traffic, so I wasn’t super excited about going to Philadelphia and then New York so I was surprised when it was pretty fun. We saw the liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s house, printing press, and a museum about him. I liked the museum because you got to do stuff. We also got a lot of the trading cards. Independence Hall was really cool. There we learned, I learned, that Philadelphia was once the nation’s Capitol. Kind of a bad turn of events for them when Washington DC came along and then the capitol of Pennsylvania was taken. Poor guys. At least they still have their Cheese Steaks. Oh yeah, Cheese steak! Yum! Those were really good even though it’s pretty much cheese, bread, and steak, although, the one I shared with Papa (I actually got three quarters since everyone gave him some) had mushrooms and peppers mmmmmmm.
Changing the subject, I think if you work in a big city and you lived outside of it, you would spend more money going to and from work than you even earned that day because of toll roads.

See you in The Big Apple,


87 years ago

I wonder if Abe’s speech would be as well remembered if it started “87 years ago…”.  Anyway, we are right here at Gettysburg where the historic 3 day battle took place and Abe delivered that famous address.  As usual, I came in knowing a few basic facts I memorized in school but left with a much better understanding of this part of history and a ton of questions.
Honest Abe

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