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We left Austin in vacation mode. No plan, no destination. Roughly wanted to see stuff north of the Mississippi where we've never been before. We sat down one day and tried to figure out where to drive to... couldn't. We decided to go see Greg's brother and Family in Houston and stayed in his driveway for a few days after nearly destroying a load rated bridge near his house. We basically got lost in the woods and came across a bridge rated for 10-15k pounds but had no place to turn our 37' 20k pound home around. We were already frustrated from being lost and were so ready to be there. Jenn jumped out of the motorhome to analyze the bridge and supports to make a judgment call on if it could hold us or not when Greg just decided to drive over it and get it over with. Jenn FREAKED when she saw her home and all her belongings including her kids, pets, and husband (being really stupid) come barreling over this bridge tweaking and creaking and really not safe or a good idea ~ don't try this in your home. Apologies to anyone else who may have used this bridge after us. Not safe. Sorry.
Still trying to figure out which road to take to the Northeast ~ So we were poking around in a VW magazine or online and found Kubel Treffen East in Asheville, NC. It's an annual gathering of VW Things (which we tow) and sounded like a perfect destination.
We drove through Lake Charles, LA to Slidell, LA through MS, AL, GA, SC, to Asheville, NC. But it sounds easier than it was. In Slidell, we noticed the voltmeter on the RV getting whacked out so we pulled over, removed the alternator in a parking lot and had it tested ~ bad. So we bought the first replacement. Put it on, and drove onto the highway where the belt immediately slipped off and made a LOT of noise. We thought we were dead. After cutting the belt off on the side of the interstate, we drove to an RV park nearby to deal with the problem later. Later came the next day where we learned that the pulley on the alternator was wrong which is why the belt slipped. So they replaced the pulley. Then the pulley slipped on the second alternator replacement so they tightened to make sure it wouldn't slip anymore ~ it slipped. So we gave them back the third alternator that we installed and went somewhere else ~ the fourth alternator has a lifetime warranty and is still on the RV and working fine today (2/05). If it breaks, we hope we can find the same auto parts store where we bought it (yeah, right).
We ended up staying in Slidell for a couple of nights and actually went downtown and had some great Cajun food. Louisiana in the summer is way too hot though, so we left...
Then drove through MS, AL, GA, SC, to Asheville, NC.
Where we also attended Kubel Treffen East with our then army green Thing.
Here's the deal on the link ~ it opens a new window but breaks the story, so ~ go there and close the window to continue here if you're interested enough in a car show full of '73 and '74 VW Things.
...And welcome back!
Greg got a special treat on his July 19 birthday ~ Sunny's awkward look at...
The Biltmore Estate! This is where Richie Rich was filmed and probably some other cool cultural, art, history, and other non-pop culture stuff is or happens. But Richie Rich was filmed here!!
We also day tripped to Charlotte, NC to see our favorite band in the world. We actually rent cars for longer road trips because the Thing is nice to tow (light) but not great to sit in for hours. We also got a hotel room and went to a really big mall. Calm down Kes.
Back in the Asheville area we ended up staying for about a month. It was really hot everywhere else and Asheville is in the mountains and a little cooler. This is on Chimney Rock where we went with our friends from the park.
That's Savannah "I'd smack you if we weren't in church".
Chimey Rock is a really cool place to explore ~ this is going into a cave like area which is really more like a split in the rocks.
And heading up to the actual Chimney ~ a little scary with the height thingie.
We also attended a festival with our campground friends...
That's Justin (Savannah's bro) on the left. We have a picture of their parents Scott and Sherrie somewhere, but not here. We'll let 'em go and give their kids back, eventually.
Sunny Bunny. The girl with the most nicknames ever...
and Indians. Those white kids don't care.
We met these guys in a parking lot of a buffet ~ they were going to fight the fires in California that year. We asked a small group of them for a picture with the kids and they ended up getting the entire group together. The human spirit is amazing.
So we thought. Apparently Greg was being followed by this guy and made three crazy turns without a blinker ~ Greg was thinking RV parts (RV's do break all the time). He turned out to be a really great person. After checking out all our fake IDs and insurance, he liked that we had all three kids in car seats in the back and let us go with a warning. Had he only known how the car seats were attached...
Somehow we managed to leave Asheville. Wasn't easy though. During our stay in Asheville, we had some extended warranty work done on the RV (We'll NEVER get another extended warranty, ever. These guys are pros at writing these things so they always make money). Anyway, we thought it would be cool to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway heading north through Virginia to wherever. About 30 minutes into the drive from hell on the Parkway (up and down with 20k pounds is hard on equipment), we looked at the map and turned towards the interstate ~ then drove down, down, down a small farm road using brakes and low gear way too much. Once we got to the Interstate, the RV would not come out of second gear. So we drove back to Asheville to have it repaired ~ and you were wondering why we mentioned 'work done on the RV' earlier...
So here's what we learned about taking a big RV and discovering America ~ buy a truckers map and stay on roads designated for trucking routes cause you're gonna screw up if you try and take a lot of weight and length and height on back roads or parkways (more on parkways coming up on our New York photos). We also missed out on Hwy 1 in California.
After another week in Asheville fixing the solenoids in the transmission, we got back on the interstate and drove through Virginia.
And made it to Kentucky where we're gettin' lucky in Kentucky.
We stayed a few nights in Jenny Wiley State Park while in Kentucky. Not really sure where the above picture was taken, but it fell in sequence with Kentucky, kinda. But who really knows. Not us. Sure is pretty though.
Jenn says this is at Jenny Wiley SP ~ actually ~ "I know this is at Jenny Wiley"... both of us really don't know where the previous pic is from still.
We do know this one was taken in Ohio ~ why is everyone leaving? We stayed in a little lakeside interstate park somewhere in Ohio but it rained the whole time and was really pretty lame.
Michigan was great times. Great lakes. Great automobiles, in detroit.
At the Henry Ford Museum. We stayed in Ann Arbor, Michigan just out of Detroit and the highlight was definitely the Ford Museum.
This is one of the many presidents cars they had on display. Kennedy's car that he was assassinated in was there. So was Reagans. Sunny got excited, Austin was down wit dat, and Greg was working on his chin hair look.
This is the actual chair that Lincoln was assassinated in. They believe those are blood stains at the top. Creepy.
We left Detroit and headed into Canada through Windsor where Greg was so excited that the Canadian Customs guys wanted to talk ~ as in 'where are you from' ~ where Greg replied 'Texas' with a smile and was about to ask the same of them and create some conversation being all excited to be in Canada and talking with Canadians before he realized they were customs guys doing their jobs and we have Washington plates on the RV (as in NOT Texas plates where he just answered we were from) ~ yes, it got that bad before they had us pull over to be thoroughly searched. There were like ten customs agents going through the RV and they immediately split Greg and Jenn for questioning and were questioning the kids and going through everything ~ it was freaky paranoia and we were clean! After they searched and questioned us for like ten minutes they were called off by a conversion bus that actually did have Texas plates with an old guy and loaded guns. Canadians do NOT appreciate crazy Texans and their guns nor do they respect any rights to bear arms into their country. God love 'em. Oh, and the above picture is at the Niagara Falls international clock.
Niagara Falls Canada is the only way to hang out and see the falls. The American side is really lame. This is in the coolest campground where we celebrated an early Halloween because they shut the campground down in mid-September.
Apparently Freddy shows up with winter and starts slashing children...
We'd rather go over the falls in a barrel than be slashed by Freddy.
Hitting the bottom of the falls in a barrel compresses your bones and makes you shrink so be careful next time you go over the falls in a barrel.
The falls are really beautiful. We were in a very peaceful place, loving Canada, loving life. Not really thinking about anything. Our three homes had sold, we had a little money in the bank and were simply planning to continue our vacation visiting places like Montreal; Vermont and New Hampshire in the Fall; Maine to have some lobster; New York city (never been); Washington DC for the Smithsonian, the capital, the Lincoln memorial... Confident that we will find a way to work together after some time off together to re-connect as a Family.
Thrilled to be alive, and free, and together as a Family.
Content, safe, Texas Canadian Family ~ 9/05/01. Austin's b-day.
For Austin's ninth birthday we decided to go to Six Flags Darien Lake for the weekend, just over the border in New York state about an hour away. This was on Friday September 7th. No one knew what was going to happen about 450 miles away from us in a few days. On Sunday September 9th, we head back to Niagara Falls because we had ordered our mail to be delivered there and it had been delayed. Monday we picked up our mail and were preparing to leave Tuesday morning. Greg wakes early for some reason and is in bed watching TV the morning of Tuesday, September 11th and wakes Jenn when he sees the second plane hit. We just sat there in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada watching news for the next three days straight.
Our Families back in Texas were insisting that we get back to Texas, we were all scared but didn't have to think too long about leaving neutral Canada to 'get back' to Bush's home state and a country under attack.
But a few days later we tested out the border crossing in the VW and spent the day in Buffalo. Crossing into the US was easy, coming back to Canada was very difficult?!? We sat on the International Bridge target for hours 1000+ feet above Niagara rapids. We were as lost as any other human. But life goes on.
>> And so did our journey, but we wimped out and stayed in Canada for a while, all part of the Northeast...