Vermont

November 13, 2012

We woke up early because Paul and Stacy had to go to work and we had a long day of driving ahead of us.

We drove for 7 hours with two stops: gas and lunch. We listened to a podcast about Francis Garnier, a french naval officer who explored the Mekong River from its mouth in Vietnam up into China. It really helped the time go by quickly.
No pictures except when we hit 9,999.9 miles on our trip odometer. After that it rolled over to 0.0, which I didn’t catch in time.

9999.9 miles

We were very happy to finally get to Chandler’s parent place. His mom made us an amazing meal of enchiladas. Then we slept.

The Happy Hovans and the Jazzy Engels

November 11 – 12, 2012

We got to Philly around 9pm and has no problem parking, thanks to Liz having a spot ready for us. Buddy was excited to share a Philly cheese steak with Chan and cheese pizza with me, which were awesome (relying on Chan’s report on the cheese steak). We spent the night in their 4 year old daughter’s room. Midnight tea party anyone? Thanks for letting us use your room Izzy.

The next day, we slept in, had a late breakfast and enjoyed Izzy’s antics.

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Because we needed to get to Paul and Stacy’s place before dark, we didn’t have a lot of time for sight seeing. So, Buddy and Liz gave us two options: Rocky statue or some other important historically significant thing.

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Somehow we happened upon a dam. Notice that Chandler made sure include it in our photo.

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We left Philly around 1:30 to head to Tunkhannock, PA where Paul and Stacy live. We were greeted with delicious pizza and the Wii game Just Dance 4.

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The next day we went to Marsha’s for breakfast and then the boys went 4 wheeling while Stacy and I just hung out talking and watching TV.

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We spent the night relaxing and watching movies.

Virginia

November 9 – 10, 2012

We woke up to another cold morning and a ways to drive. Today we were headed to visit Chandler’s cousin. Mag and her husband and their five children live in a wonderful rural area of northern Virginia.

We stayed on the blue ridge parkway as much as we could which was nice, except that we encountered some dreaded snow. This is the first snow we have seen since the Yukon territory.

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That horrible white stuff

We were treated to an excellent, healthy home cooked meal that night courtesy of Mag’s sister in-law Susan. The next morning, Mag’s husband made everyone breakfast and then sent everyone outside to play on a sunny and warm day. The game the kids invented involved drop kicking a soccer ball at cones and mini army men set up on top of a stone wall along the driveway.

Midday, we were shown the area, so we went to a winery to sample some delicious local wine.

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Mag, you're on the blog!

After a bottle and cheese plate, we headed back to the house to blow bubbles.

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First bubble game

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Setting bubbles free

The girls made a concoction of ultra concentrated dish soap and bubble soap. We must have spent an hour blowing bubbles. It started out with just blowing bubbles, to trying to pass bubbles around to trying to set them free. We had a good time and had the cleanest hands on the planet.

Soon, it was time to head off to our next stop, Philadelphia. My girlfriend from AK moved there with her family to attend grad school.

Georgia

November 7 – 8, 2012

Guess what we did today? Drove!!

We crossed into Georgia and immediately stopped at an information/ rest area. Chandler has been enjoying a little too much sweet tea.

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Chan chugging

He picked up some Atlanta magazine and we found there is a coca-cola tasting room and a “Gone with the Wind” restaurant with three blocks of each other.

Following the GPS, we went straight to downtown Atlanta. Parking in any city is pretty much not an option with the trailer unless there is a big parking lot. Downtown turned into a fiasco with many wrong turns and cursing. Unfortunately, we had to skip both attractions and just kept driving.

When we got to North Carolina, we were suddenly out of the South and into Appalachia. There were “mountains” and quaint little houses and it just felt like the east coast. Chandler did not share my same feeling having grown up in Vermont.

We found a free place to camp in the middle of nowhere in a National Forest.

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Road out of camping spot

The next day was also spent driving. This time we spent most of the day on a lovely scenic highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway. This road runs along the Blue Ridge in the Appalachian Mountains. It was a nice change of pace from the interstate.

The only problem was the road was periodically closed due to snow or construction. It was fun find to ways around the closures on little back roads.

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Road closed

We spent the night in a empty parking lot overlooking a field off the parkway, and enjoyed a killer sunset.

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Pretty

Cold front

November 6, 2012

The morning started off with a classic breakfast of grits for Chandler and an omelette for me in a cafe in the French Quarter, followed by a farmer’s market near a university. I bought some kale. The rain from the night before was absent, but the skies were overcast and the temperature had dropped into the 40s.

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Collard greens, okra and a bunch of other fresh veggies

Next we headed out of town to Mississippi, the first state we would pass through without spending the night. Since the interstate is boring, we took the scenic route which for a while was right along the coast. I was surprised to see beaches and lighthouses and other normal coastal things like surf shops and palm trees.

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Down by da beach in Biloxi

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Bird and lighthouse

Also on the beach:

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After seeing my new favorite building, we crossed into Alabama.  Welcoming us to Mobile Bay was the USS Alabama. It was getting dark at this point, so unfortunately we didn’t stop.

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USS Alabama

We tried to camp at a campground on an island, but it was an RV oriented spot with a pathetic tent camping area. We opted to continue driving. We ended up meeting some of Alabama’s smartest citizens when we got our oil changed.

After driving in the dark for a few hours, we stopped to spend the night in yet another Wally World parking lot. We listened to the news coverage of the voting results on a small radio in the back of the truck, but fell asleep before the election was called. It got into the low thirties that night. I thought the south was supposed to bet HOT! Must be a cold front…

Alligators and Hand Grenades

November 4 – 5, 2012

The 4th was a day of driving. We left Weatherford pretty early after having breakfast with Aunt Rosie and family. Our goal was to get to Palmetto Island State Park in southern Louisiana. The drive was nothing to write about except we started ‘The Wrath of the Khans’ podcast which discusses the history of the Mongol horsemen and their conquest of parts of Asia and Europe.

We got to the state park in the dark and went meet by a friendly little warning.

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Watch Out

Scary, but not a problem, we sleep in the back of the truck. We found a campsite and went through the usual motions of moving stuff from the back to the front so we could sleep. We sat outside and had a beer while I did blog stuff and Chandler studied the atlas. I got a few mosquito bites so I moved to the back of the truck for shelter. Eventually we decided to go to sleep. It was really warm and humid, but with all the bugs I was sleeping with my sleeping bag on and the windows shut. I woke up drenched in sweat covered in bites. The truck topper is definitely not “bug tight”. It was awful. I could not fall back asleep and woke up Chan with my thrashing.

Groggily, he suggested we set up the tent. Genius idea. It was cool and enclosed but now I could hear everything. While camping in Alaska, I was always terrified of grizzly bears and used to keeping an ear out. The forest around us was loud with crashing from lots of mysterious things that go bump in the night, but I finally fell asleep and didn’t get eaten.

The next morning we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our hotel, so we decided to hang out in the park. There were canoe rentals for $5 and according to the attendant on duty, potential to see some alligators.

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Canoe ride, lucy on point

The canoe ride started out pretty mellow down a creek with nothing to see but fish jumping. The attendant said the fish jump to get away from the alligators. If that was true, it seemed there were dozens of alligators in the water. We got to a little lake and Chandler saw something jumping the water and suddenly there were two alligators swimming around. One was much larger than the other, so naturally we name them mama and baby.

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Let's go swimming

We hung out for a bit and then continued down the creek. We saw a huge heron and a vulture. The creek led to the Vermilion River which we had to get out and cross a weir to access. The river was slow moving and had an island we could paddle around. The water was shallow around the island and since neither of us wanted to get in the water if we got stuck, we turned back for the creek.

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Scarves or moss

On crossing the weir again, I saw a snake swimming in the water (as if snakes in the grass are not scary enough), but we didn’t get a photo. We hustled back to the lake to get another look at the gators. We were in luck because mama was sunning herself on the bank.

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Big Mama

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Lucy's new friend

We hung out for as long as we dared so not to piss her off. On the way back to the take out point we also saw a turtle.

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Teenage mutant ninja

After our canoe adventure, it was off to New Orleans. We had a three hour drive before we got to the hotel. Once Lucy was settled and we each had a shower, Chandler found us a place downtown for dinner. Just our luck, there was a Saint’s game and people were everywhere. Parking prices were inflated, so Chandler drove around for awhile until we found street parking. We just happened to find a spot on the corner of Bourbon Street.

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Bourbon Street

Chandler’s mom said that we had to get hurricanes because they are an iconic drink of New Orleans. I am allergic to rum and someone needed to drive, so it was up to Chan to do all the drinking. The only places we found with hurricanes had basically alcoholic slurpie machines and weren’t sure of how it would be.

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Slurpie heaven

Instead, Chan opted for the hand grenade. A very alcoholic beverage in a large green cup with the base shaped like a grenade. I’m sure you can imagine how the rest of the night went with one drunk guy and one sober driver.

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Coolest guy on Bourbon St

The next couple days

October 31 – November 4

The last couple of days have been family and friends. We had a great time with everyone. For brevity we’ll only share the highlights. Here is a irrelevant milestone: We hit 66,666 miles on the odometer in the truck. The number below is the total miles driven at that point, 6,967.6!

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Halloween night was spent with my brother Jon and his wife Katrina. We had dinner and a few drinks and told stories. The next day, Jon had a test, so we took him to school and hung out with Katrina until he was done and then explored Austin together for a bit. They were kind enough to give us some new podcasts as we had run out of “This American Life”. We are now listening to “Hardcore History” which are really good and informative.

We then headed up to Temple, TX to meet my friend and her family at a Mexican restaurant. This was cheap and incredibly tasty with enormous quantities of food.

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Chandler's pig cauldron of mexican meat

We all tried cactus for the first time and I highly recommend it. We spent the night at their house and were able to check up more than at the restaurant.

The next morning we boogied on up to Weatherford, TX to visit with Chandler’s Aunt Rosemary and her partner, Kent. Kent’s brother Mark and his wife Sum Se were also visiting. We spent two nights with them and had a lot of fun playing all sorts of games from the Wii to washers, similar to horseshoes. Sum Se is from Thailand so we got lots of good tips for our upcoming bike trip which begins in Bangkok. Sum Se also called Lucy by a new nickname which has stuck, BarBaQ!

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The wolf goes bowling

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Crazy Brothers

It was nice to take a few days off and not do any driving. Thanks to Jon, Katrina, Shana, Phil, Rosemary and Kent for some great Texas hospitality. Next stop Louisiana!