Tag Archives: North Carolina

Day 17 – Rockville MD to Santee SC

E: I miss the houses. I miss all the houses.

L: I miss all the houses, too, buddy.

E: I feel sad.

L: I feel sad, too. It’s okay to be sad.

My conversation with Elliot yesterday morning sums up how I feel about being on the tail end of a wonderful vacation. Clearly, he misses the people who live in the houses. Who he can’t keep straight because he is three and there were so so many loved ones we visited with over the past two and a half weeks.

As we drove home, I just wanted to be home already. If we couldn’t be en route to a loved one’s abode, then I just wanted the trip to be over. Especially when we were stopped in traffic in Maryland and Virginia and the we were all achingly sad with leaving our final friends’s house. We all dealt with our feelings in different but typical ways. Henry kept scratching his brother. Elliot threw things around the vehicle. Then Henry would throw things back. I anxiously tried to ignore everything, but did a terrible job because of the confined space. Keith stayed level-headed until all the other mess happening in the car got to him and he exploded once.

These bad behaviors occurred so briefly on our vacation that they stand out in memory as exceptions to the overall awesomeness. Don’t get me wrong, they often occurred when we rode in the car for an extended period of time. But then laughter would fill the air as Henry decided to make Elliot laugh instead of hurt him because that was more fun. Or we’d all listen to an audiobook waiting to hear how things would end for “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” or “Ugly Cat and Pablo.” Or a kid would fall asleep mid-sentence bringing the car to a peaceable silence. I couldn’t ask for better travel companions. I love them all the most.

We stopped at Santee State Park on the edge of Lake Marion before checking into our hotel for the night. A last-minute decision, its beauty at sunset filled the sky with warmth. We stood near the docks enjoying the cool breezes the end of the day brings, and then raced to the playground for the kids to burn off their sitting-all-day energy. We’ll have to return another day to conquer its several hiking trails. On our way out of the park as darkness surrounded us, we discovered 7 deer alongside the road including a fawn. The boys found them especially delightful. I forget how rare it is for suburban kids to see wild animals outside a zoo. I think I’m going to work on finding the wonder in the ordinary and see what happens.

Day 2 – Walterboro SC to Alexandria VA

Last night when Keith asked what time the hotel pool opened in the morning the clerk responded with a grin, “Do whatever you want to do. I don’t care.”

Challenge accepted.

We didn’t swim because we had a busy day of driving through three states, but we are doing what we like because we’re living that vacation life.

We had planned to stop to play at a park in Dunn, North Carolina, but Elliot was asleep so we continued north to Rocky Mount for lunch and park time.

Sunset Park (1550 River Drive) was an awesome detour. We rode an antique 1920 carousel and a 1952 Model G-16 Miniature Train around the park including through a tunnel. For train aficionados, it had a 20 horsepower Wisconsin gasoline engine and is a scale model one fifth the size of the train it depicts (F7 General Motors Diesel Locomotive). There were actual seats for 36 people (unlike the Largo Central Park trains) and it went FAST (well, faster than I thought it would, topping out at 8 mph).

The kids’ favorite part was the spray ground, where they ran (until Elliot wiped out) and then walked and chopped their way through the water making friends. For $5 a person (E was free) I definitely recommend it!

Getting out of the car for a bathroom break in Virginia, Henry said to me, “Thanks for planning such a great trip, Mommy. I’m having a great time.” I asked Keith if he prompted the Hen to say this, and he came up with it all on his own. No, I didn’t cry, but my heart soared.

We made it to the lovely Casa Browne in Alexandria just before dinner and we are so thankful to spend some time with Vanesa and Scott. Complete with a champagne welcome, presents for the kids, and a home-cooked meal we feel so welcomed and loved. An evening passeggiata to the playground (actually 4!) combined with races and climbing fun rounded out our evening.

E now has his very own Marlon Bundo!

H loves Minecraft and Legos so this is amazing!

Miles driven today = 504 miles

Epic Walbolt Road-Trip Vacation

Tomorrow we leave for a 17-day great American road trip as a family. That’s right, we’re taking our 3 and 6 year olds with us in our Toyota Corolla up the East Coast from Florida to Maine and back. You’re probably thinking we may be crazy, and as I pack, clean, and do last minute preparations, I’m thinking you may be right.

Just kidding, we’ve got this.

I’m mostly sure.

Our idea for this trip was planted when we realized how many people we loved lived from the mid-Atlantic to New England and we missed them so much we knew we needed to schedule a visit. Flying four people anywhere costs a fortune, and then we’d have to rent a car anyway once we arrived. So we drive!

Each kid has a tote bag of car distractions that include a whole lot of Melissa and Doug, coloring books, games, and building toys like Legos and Tegu magnetic blocks. I also have another tote with school-type stuff for Henry – reading and math workbooks as well as books to read aloud so he can get to Home Base for Reading with the Rays (and fill my only official summer learning requirement of reading 30 minutes a day). He’s going to try to read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which will be incredibly challenging so wish him luck and persistence. Finally, we have iPads for each kid to watch movies and play games when the time on the road becomes too intense.

H’s Car Distractions
E’s Car Gear (don’t worry, I have more things for him for later in the trip)

The kids expectations regarding our trip are mixed at best.

Henry thinks it will take 3 hours to get there, and that time frame is entirely too long. “Why aren’t we flying?” is the main question he’s been asking. Such a privileged kid, mostly flying everywhere since he’s been alive. He’s most excited to visit Vermont, for reasons involving a horse and ice cream.

Elliot thinks we are visiting Spain and chose it as his top state on this trip because it’s like church. I wish we could drive to Spain, buddy. He has also asked when and how we are seeing Marlon Bundo while we are in DC…Tia Nesa is somehow making that difficult request happen.

I’m excited to see friends and family who we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. So is Keith. Overnight stops include:

• Walterboro, South Carolina

• Alexandria, Virginia

• Spencerport, New York

• Bristol, Vermont

• Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

• Jamestown, Rhode Island

• Rockville, Maryland

• Yemassee, South Carolina

We’ll be stopping at least every three hours so the kids can run around at parks and playgrounds along the way. Hopefully, that will break up the monotony of interstate travel and let them get their energy out. And nap. So no one goes crazy.

Hiking Black Balsam Knob With The Littles

We spent our last day in North Carolina hiking up a mountain. You may be thinking, they have two kids not even school-age – they must be crazy! Naysayers be damned – the kiddos did splendidly!
 
Keith selected Black Balsam Knob (via the Art Loeb Trail) in the Pisgah National Forest (Mile 420 off the Blue Ridge Parkway) as the location. It’s the second highest mountain in the Great Balsam Mountains at 6,214 feet tall! The weather was freezing for us Floridians – in the 40s! It was quite a shock from the temperature in Asheville, so I took Henry’s hat for myself because he had a hooded coat. 


Henry has been preparing his whole life for hiking. He has an abundance of energy, climbs everything in sight, and has been doing trail walks since he took his first steps. Up on the mountain, he acted like a little mountain goat hopping from rock to rock and sprinting the straight-aways. We have a great backpack carrier that Elliot rode in since his walking skills weren’t up to snuff for a mile and half hike. He could look out and see over Keith’s shoulders, and looked quite relaxed so long as we didn’t stop moving.


After the one mile hike to the peak, we took a break for snacks and water, reclining on the grass while enjoying the beautiful view. On a clear day, you can see Shining Rock, Looking Glass Rock, Mt. Pisgah, Cold Mountain, and occasionally Mt. Mitchell (the highest point in the Eastern United States). In other words, the view is pristinely lovely. Henry only needed the tiniest bit of help going down the mountain when the rocks were slippery. We didn’t see any bears (thank goodness!), but ran into a few hiking dogs (much to the Hen’s dismay). 


We stopped for ice cream at Dolly’s Dairy Bar (Lutheridge is a special flavor!) on the way back to Amber’s (kids were sleeping so we got to enjoy a mini-date), and ended the day with an evening stroll and playground adventure in her neighborhood. It was such a great visit; I hope we return soon!

Birthday Beer is the Best!

Keith asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and my request was simple: spend some time with the family and some non-kid time with Amber, but all of it should include beer. Asheville has a fantastic craft beer scene, and I wanted to partake!

After worshipping at Amber’s church where I wasn’t solely responsible for two littles (meaning I got to enjoy most of worship!), we headed to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company for lunch. Amber and Chris had told us that it was like the Disney World of breweries and they did not lie. We could have spent the entire afternoon there, if we didn’t have to get the boys home to nap. Lunch consisted of shareable small plates and everyone was licking their fingers. We headed out back afterwards and enjoyed live music while relaxing around a fire pit (it was chilly for us Floridians!) A sand table area was set up for kids, and Henry had too much fun digging and laughing (as usual). We also walked through their garden where edible plants are grown for their brewpub. The brewery offers tours, too, but we didn’t have time for that.




Because after dropping Keith and the boys off at Amber’s, us ladies headed to downtown Asheville for more fun (and drinky-drinks)! Our first stop was Catawba Brewing Company in South Slope. This was our favorite tasting room – lots of tables, great beer, and a beautiful warehouse. There’s a smaller room for private events, and I’m sure it is a cool place for wedding receptions. It also has food trucks outside for food, and there’s a donut shop next door that looked delicious.
 


Next up was Green Man Brewery, which turned out to be our least favorite. I liked the Yoda, Slimer, and other green decor, but the beer I had was just so-so. Finally, we visited Hi-Wire Brewing, and the beer there was yummy. We sat at the bar, there was a nice breeze, and great service. By that point, I was full of beer and super hungry and there was no line for the French Broad Chocolates. So of course we had to get some sweet treats! I had the most delicious Mexican hot chocolate, Amber snagged a tasty cookie, and I picked up a mint chocolate brownie to take back to Henry.
 



Back at Amber’s, we had burgers on the grill and sides before chowing down on birthday pie from a Hendersonville bakery. It was decadent and a perfect birthday treat. The best part of my birthday was spending it with people I love: Keith, my kids, and best friends. That evening, I told Keith my birthday priority in the future would be spending it with best friends who I don’t get to see all the time, because it was so lovely. What a fantastic start to 35!

Asheville Adventuring with the Littles

Let me first start by saying that everyone needs a friend like Amber in their lives. She’s one of the best, and we are lucky to have been friends with her since college. It’s one of those friendships that can pick up after not keeping in touch well (on my part, she’s always the one reaching out to say hi) and it seems like no time has passed. Additionally, she was kind enough to invite all four of us to stay with her for a week while Keith was at his conference and she was teaching. Adding our four-person level of craziness to her quiet home was probably an adventure in itself, but then we ventured out!


She recommended a playground in Asheville called Carrier Park which was incredible! A velodrome surrounded the playground area so we had fun watching bicycle racing before playing. The playground itself was a wooden castle, with climbing tunnels, swings, slides, and an airplane! In two sections – one for older kids and one for the smaller ones – we spent equal time in both. Henry loved playing hide and go seek against me and Elliot because there were so many spots to hide. We also took a walk alongside the French Broad River to relax before heading back for lunch and a nap.


The next day we headed into downtown Asheville to get awesome books from Malaprops, the local bookstore. The kid’s selection was on point – we got four excellent books. Then we attempted to go to the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Unfortunately, all the schools and everyone with kids (at least that’s how the crowded  parking situation seemed) had the same idea, so we didn’t even make it past the parking lot. There was a playground nearby so we hung out there until lunchtime. Are you sensing a theme? When all else fails, a playground always makes things better.


The final day of Keith’s conference occurred on Saturday, so Amber had the day off to play with us! We visited the Hands On! Children’s Gallery in nearby Hendersonville and had lots of rainy day fun. Henry loved creating energy by peddling a bike, selling ice cream in the ice cream shop, making lego cars and racing them, and rapidly running from exhibit to exhibit. I think everyone took naps after this.