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The East Coast Road Trip: Family Summer Vacation Expedition

Updated: Jan 21

Family Vacation Summer 2014 Itinerary

Fl-->VA-->DC-->NY-->NH-->Boston-->Plattsburg NY-->LI-->VA-->Home

That first “single” trip over winter break had left me ready for more. See Here:

Since getting home I'd already been planning this 2nd and better trip. So much I'd learned and more to look forward to.

I was putting together the pieces together now that I had a vision and a blueprint for making it happen. Summer break could not arrive soon enough! Our bags were packed a week in advance 🌟🌟🌟

Better prepared & I had a vision!

Knowing we were going back "home" to NY with family for the bulk of the trip was the easy part. All the pit stops there and back were the planning pieces!

We left our home in hot and humid Florida after breakfast and drove the first leg up to Chester Virginia, to our friend Kim’s house. She was happy to welcome us back and our families quickly got caught up over her famous orange chicken. Our families were long time friends.

Virginia fun: The next day we joined forces and took all the kids to Jumpology in Richmond Virginia. This is an indoor trampoline park. Now they are popular, but at that time we had never been to one (or even heard of this before) so they jumped and bounced like nobodies business!

From there we were off to Maymont Gardens! On our visit during winter break, everything was dormant and it was still beautiful then. I could not wait to see it all in bloom with the waterfalls running and the roses climbing everywhere. The kids did not disappoint. They climbed ran jumped and posed very naturally as Kim and I were snapping candid pictures of our kids loving life. Something about being free in the outdoors to roam and explore that brings people together….

Washington DC day!

As our Nation’s capital is just two hours from Kim’s house it quickly became a tradition to have a DC day during our trip. This was our second Day in DC together and in my research since the first time I had worked up a bucket list. Well, to be honest the kids fed me ideas. “If we go back, we really need to….” I kept hearing. I kept saying, “yes we are going back, yes we will do that”.

The Washington DC Zoo is free, however you pay $20 for parking. When you have as many kids as we do we are definitely looking for as many free stops as possible. Paying per entry adds up. But I was willing to pay $20.00 to see pandas, as there are only four Zoo's in the US that have pandas. We got there as they were opening (!0:00)and spent a few hours seeing some of the biggest exhibits. Our real plan was just to see the pandas but we also stopped for the Lions and we loved the way they have the most well laid out exhibits. We had a schedule to keep and two hours was all we had. So we ran around and caught the animals we most wanted to and kept it moving.

Union station and the Liberty Bell are our next steps. Actually we did a Union Station lunch stop to grab a bite to eat and some air-conditioning. It was an extremely humid day!

Union Station - What a cool place. So much money has been spent revitalizing through the years. It has been rebuilt many times, and still remains true to the original design. It is over a century old and a National Historic Site, but it’s been a very expensive project. As a visitor, it is awesome. This is still a transportation hub with bus, metro and rail running through. Walking up we took some photos with the Liberty Bell, which is a replica of the original but made by the same French foundry as the original bell in Pennsylvania. It once toured the country to help celebrate the Bicentennial in 1976. Now it is parked outside of Union Station to bring appreciation of history. Walking in the arches are grand. The arched ceiling inside is incredibly high. Gold leaf covers the walls and Greek Statues guard the station from the second floor. We were there for the food court. There are many choices of food and multiple shops in the station. As far as a mall goes it has something for everyone. The view outside is just as grand with the Capital and museums lining the landscape.

Arlington - While we were here in the winter we tried to go to Arlington but it was a little too late to get in and out. We did actually drive in because I insisted on trying. This time we made sure to get there early enough. We parked and walked uphill in the hundred degree weather and our first stop is: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We sat on the steps to take it all in. There in the heat we had the view overlooking view at the top of the hill crest I thought what a great resting place. Beautiful. Serene. Each hour they have a changing of the guards ceremony which we did not have to wait very long to see. Very commemorative and awe inspiring. That really is monumental. We stopped by Kennedy everlasting flame and enjoyed the experience. The flame was lit at his funeral and still burns today. His wife and two children are at rest there with him and JFK is forever remembered. The view at his site is also quite significant. Another moment to just reflect on our history while the kids start asking questions about how he was killed and why.

These are the places that are less central and need a little more driving to get to. So we worked the navigation and worked the outskirts.

Quite different than our first trip to DC, we did completely different things this time around. Josh really wanted to have time to tour the Bureau of Printing and Engraving however tickets are distributed early in the morning and once they are gone, the office closes. We had missed it. He was disappointed and I assured him we would do that when we returned again. We would be back. One of the most interesting things that happens on each trip is we managed to put together our next trip.

D.C. Takeaways:

*Monuments are for the most part always available. Many have 24 hour access and others are limited to 9:30 AM - 10:00 PM. They are also all closer together.

*This trip was trying to hit the outskirts, making a day of seeing the things harder to see.

*Arlington is open at 8:00 AM and closes at 5:00 from Oct. 1 - Mar. 31, and stays open until 7 PM from April 1 - Sept. 30.

*On hot days or rainy days more indoor activities are preferred, however they get very crowded! We were able to have some air conditioning in the middle of a hot day at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Chose your tour times around the hottest/ least desirable parts of the day.

We drove back to Virginia sweaty and tired from our busy day. There was traffic and humidity mixed with a bunch of kids that were hungry ALL the TIME. LOL, we did have good car snacks and lots of drinks. That was a mom win!

Speaking of Mom wins... Kim and I had a Mom's night out! We don't usually get this time together but we went out for a movie and left the kids home!

I had a few different goals for this excursion. This one was about people I LOVE.

Connecting with some of my favorite people I had not seen for a long time.

My old college roommate Loren has come to Florida many times and we had not been up to Boston to visit her since Wes and Jas were little. She was always inviting, and I was always declining for some reason or another. That had to stop. Also my brother Eddie. I had not seen him in years. It had been far too long. He was living about as far Upstate as you can go without being in Canada. I decided we were just going to have to go up there. Of course an invitation and some conversation happened before all of this but a lot of it was still not "scheduled". I had a general idea of certain things but not quite the while trip mapped out. One main point about planning your trip around people is this: People have lives. Schedules. Jobs. I could have insisted we all stick to a particular time and date and stressed everyone out, but instead I allowed some flexibility. Demanding their time and commitment would have taken away from the happy vibe I was going with.

I had really hoped to make it to Niagara Falls on this trip. In my research I determined it best to go to the Canadian side. While I had started this process back in February and applied for passports I had a few hold ups. So basically my kids had received their's and I still did not have mine! I was still not giving up hope that it might come to the house in time for my dog sitter to mail it up to me at my uncles and we could still go for it as it would be another week before I’d need it and it would literally come any day.... That was still an option and I was winging part of this adventure. I wanted to figure out a way to make it happen.

While Niagara Falls didn’t happen a quick accidental drive into Canada did. And putting all the pieces together to make this trip flow, also good with what stops can we add along the way to make the long car rides work turned into quite an adventure!

After another day with our buddies in Chester VA it was time to drive up to NY.

It was our goal to arrive in NY July 3, and be ready to see the fireworks in the City July 4th.

I had a little tradition when Wes and Jas were babies that we’d leave the family bbq about 8:45 PM, and drive on the LIE cutting over to the Kosciuszko Bridge. We could pull over if I timed it just right (and I did) and watch the firework display over the Hudson River before quickly jumping back on the LIE East bound and beating the traffic home. I cannot emphasize this enough: I love the 4th of July in NYC. Every other 4th of July pales next to it. There is no other firework show comparable anywhere that I have been. I wanted my kids to get to feel the fireworks in their chest. All those barges simultaneously playing to the music where you have the most beautiful backdrop and the world around you is perfect just for a moment. Yes take me there!

Since 9/11 we could no longer pull over on bridges - or you would quickly get shoo’ d along. That was considered highly suspicious now. So I had to research the best places to see the fireworks and find a spot that we could stay and hang out for a while. However I knew that getting out and back to my uncles would be a priority as well. The traffic can be ungodly in moments such as these.

4th of July - NYC:

Lucky I checked channel 12 news that morning, because this year they moved the fireworks farther south. My original plan was to take a train into the city, but I did some good research that proved Brooklyn Bridge Park would be the right place for us to go! It was a 40 minute drive and we could park (for free) then hang out in the area and wait till the fireworks. And wow. Wow. Wow. Favorite time ever.

My first impression of Brooklyn Bridge Park was: why haven’t I ever been here before??

Another revitalized project, this vast area of scenic city skyline views has all a family needs to be happy. A previously deteriorated industrial space was transformed, and now a park that allows New Yorkers to rediscover the waterfront exists. Gardens, play grounds, rock climbing, food trucks, hills, benches, sand boxes, volley ball nets, kayaking…. I knew this was going on my list of places I’d have to come back and spend time at when it wasn’t a huge national holiday with a crowd.

Our timing was good. I parked a few blocks away and as we walked up we stopped for street hot dogs and pretzels (YAY!) and on this particular day I’d been worried because it had been raining all morning. I wasn’t sure how the weather would hold out so at 3:00 in the afternoon when there was a glimmer of sun I quickly threw everyone in the car and got happy again.

I was however tired. I found a higher place to sit and there I laid out some blankets to claim our space. The kids walked around a little, wandered a bit, but for the most part I held our spot. It can be very competitive to get a good view - you know how real estate is: location location location!!!!

And then…. The water boats came. They are marvelous! Up and down the river with their red and blue water spray. That cheers up a crowd. The many yachts offering 4th of July views started passing with their party crowds. The people were definitely cheering up and the energy is contagious. I'd missed this all the years I watched from the bridge. Wow. I never knew.

As the sky darkened our anticipation grew! Finally the fireworks started with a huge (startling) explosion right off of the Brooklyn Bridge and suddenly all my joy flooded over. The lights, the coordinated six barges of fireworks in the Hudson with the city back drop and the bridge just over head – was PERFECT. It was one of those moments. The display did not disappoint. Not a person there stood unsatisfied!

I didn’t even care that I sat in a parking lot weaving through Brooklyn to get back to the Belt PKWY. Traffic was backed up and I was still happy, music up and singing my songs.

I said this trip was all about catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a while – and July 5th was a drive up to the Smith home for a family party!

Smith family party – Our longtime friends, Simone and James (Aka LL Cool J) were hosting a family cook out and we were there ready to eat and have fun! The kids played basketball with the other kids, I mingled with the ladies, and we all danced when the DJ spun some records. The kids played hide and seek around the house, and we all chatted and caught up before heading home. Some of my favorite people in the Universe – it doesn’t matter how long you go without talking those friendship bonds once built strong don’t break. Time and Space mean nothing to connection.

Oyster Bay & Glen Cove – The next day I did my “memory lane” drive. The kids just humor me for this one. It’s like I can’t take it anymore I want to go drive by all the places I’ve lived and show them my schools, the park, and all my little favorites. Tell stories, reminisce…. Oyster Bay is a little hamlet on the North Shore of Long Island. It is pretty historic too, lots of revolutionary war history. Growing up we’d walk by Raynham Hall a few times a day and even stop in on the rainy days. Robert Townsend was the spy that gave George Washington the invisible ink letters that saved the Country from a British attack. This was a very proud moment for Oyster Bay ever since, not to mention they say Raynham Hall is haunted... There is Sagamore Hill where Teddy Roosevelt conducted his summer business and ran the country from the beautiful Oyster Bay Estate. My grandmother lived just a mile down the road from there. I’d had lots of family members who worked on the Roosevelt Estate, and a great uncle who lost his job after punching Quentin Roosevelt in the nose. OB is known for mansions and beautiful estates, and a quaint little down town village area. I hated growing up there. You know the “nothing to do” line, but I am so glad this is where I grew up and built a foundation. It was a small town but we didn’t know it. We had the best of everything. Quality everything. No one knew it yet but this laid the grounds for high expectations and appreciation of the finer things.

So we drive. I tell stories. There is of course a Nino’s stop because it’s the best pizza in the world. My high school friend Maria meets us at the hot dog stand, the famous “Bonanza Stand” or better known as “Chinks” and we get Italian ices and walk through Roosevelt Park talking and the kids climb the sea walls and hunt for cool things in the sand. The LIRR, the train station (this is the LAST stop on the line) and Audrey Avenue all hold so much meaning to me. I lived here, on the corner of Hamilton right next to the train station. This was where I am from. We part with Maria and drive up to Glen Cove Road housing apartments. We pop in unexpectedly to see our Great Aunt and visit them for a little bit reminiscing. I used to live there too. The corner apartment in the back 50-19. This place made me who I am. Ok, we are on our way to our next stop, in Glen Cove. Growing up on the North Shore I could be in the City in an hour. I lived on the Bay and could be at the Atlantic Ocean in 30 minutes. I would be out East in the beautiful country in an hour, or in the mountains in 2 hours. We had everything we wanted with in reach.

Glen Cove is the next town over. Chicken Valley Road is the curvy windy hilly road connecting them and it is fun to see how fast you can drive and still stay in the lines… Well as a kid learning to drive it is – as an adult you actually look around at the horses and ducks and beautiful properties appreciating all of the manicured landscaping and attention to detail. The cool thing about Glen Cove is it has “old money” too, but is more industrial and actually has things to do. It’s a city in the country. (Or is it a Country with in a city?) Growing up we had to go to Glen Cove for fast food because OB was too prissy for that, (but Junior year they gave in and built a McDonald's on Pine Hollow Road. Jessica Craft and I would walk almost 2 miles with no money and by the time we would get to McDonald's we’d have enough money to eat somehow lol)….

But back to Glen Cove… the movie theater was my first real job. I took the train there and loved that I could see free movies. Glen Cove has two stops on the LIRR, Glen Street and Glen Cove. But what I love about Glen Cove is the beaches and the Indian (Native) history. The Matinecock history told at Garvies Preserve and Museum showcase lots of relics and archaeological references. Morgan’s Memorial Park and Beach, donated by JP Morgan has a view and trails that are meant to be taken in completely. The Killenworth Estate, which was purchased by the Russians is right by the Preserve and Park, so we always get to tell those stories. Crescent Beach and Prybil Beach, along with Garvies Point all needed our visit today. You'd think multiple beaches in the same town are the same... but they are each unique.

I wish I’d paid more attention to the stories growing up that I was not impressed by. I have a feeling they were more important than I’d imagined. I do know, Thomas Garvie discovered large deposits of clay on his property, and used it to make pottery. This is now Garvie’s Point. The Cultural appreciation here is so prevalent. While the entire city is known for diversity, it appreciated the customs of the natives and there are many educational events. So we go, run around, check out the glacial boulders, horseshoe crabs, and dig in the earth a little to see the red clay beneath the surface. This was once my back yard. I had no appreciation then but I just want my kids to understand.

Well back to the South Shore we go, driving to Massapequa. There was always a route argument when going to see my Mom and Grandma. My mom swore 106 was fastest. My grandmother preferred the back road up Jericho TNPK to the 135. GPS cheats and maps my fastest route and today: Grandma was right.

While we spend our days out and about our evenings we are chilling with Uncle Bill, watching his favorite shows and catching up. I like to give him some time to himself as he sleeps pretty late, and keep the house quiet for him. He get's some privacy to wake up and then we return from where ever we've been out at, and hang out for a few hours before we all go sleepily to bed. This evening I’m showing him how different grandma’s house is and reliving the steps of good old Oyster Bay….He has his own stories to tell too. Aaahhhh the good old days. And you know, it's not like it used to be...

New Hampshire - Loren’s House

Back on the Road! Next Stop: New Hampshire. Loren and I were college roomie's from the Fashion Institute of Technology. In fact we shared an apartment on the 15th floor of 7th & W. 27th St. while I was pregnant with Westley :-) After graduation she went back to Massachusetts and I went back to Long Island. We had visited each other a few times during school breaks back in the day. She had since left Boston and moved up to New Hampshire, and been telling us to come up for years. The day had finally arrived!!!

The night we got there we went out for Chinese food, which my kids absolutely loved and I think I was so hungry I barely tasted it. I was super tired from all the driving and she set us up in her spare room where me and Jas both went to bed pretty early. The boys were set up in her Living room and they were so impressed with her “smart TV” (these were the new thing at the time) I don’t think they slept the whole time we stayed! It was just a few days, but we absolutely monopolized on the area. Loren was ready to show us all around!

Jackson Falls White Mountains New Hampshire – We woke up early and took our cooler because we had an exciting day going up into the mountains.

Loren is the mother of two pugs, Makenzie and Chloe. They came on our adventure ready to explore along with us. Darrien, is definitely our most animal loving family member and he played with the dogs the entire ride. Chloe, who is not too fond of strangers had no choice but to warm up!

Jackson Falls - Loren and I have been known to hike for water falls and go for long walks, but this day we hit the jack pot! The cascading waterfalls sound magnificent, and the trees and remote location feel like a private tucked away heaven. The Wild Cat River is the shortest Wild River in the US and here it tumbles down boulders and worn granite slabs creating many pools kids can jump in. There are trails in the water to cross the water way. The rocky slabs underfoot are very slippery and at first we were really scared we would get pushed over the edge. We did get brave and climb, wander, explore, and wade across the river (very carefully). The boys went under the cave like rocks and hid behind the waterfalls. I took a million pictures. Jas took a glorious nap, surprised to wake up sun burnt. The pups were just as happy in their life vests to walk around and smell everything in the area. We had our picnic lunch up there under the trees on the rocky platforms that seemed to have been put there for us to enjoy.

The kancamangus Highway scenic trail – The heart of the White Mountains holds a twisty turvy mountainous road that winds around displaying the most amazing views. I am sure in the autumn it is splendid with a variety of colors. This warm July Day it was cooler, shadier, and still bright and sunny. How interesting the land is along the East Coast. How the weather can be so drastically different from one place to another just seemingly up the road. But fresh air and higher elevation help you feel your lungs filtering the clean breaths with every inhale. We were having a great time stopping to see the overlook points and vouging (cue Madonna) on the side of the mountain! This 34 mile East – West Highway was not very crowded on this particular day giving us the freedom to drive slow, get out, stop for climbing random boulders, explore and enjoy! Loren was a great driver and we all sat in wonder watching the mountains stretch on forever.

Back at Loren’s we were in for a good night’s sleep!

The best way to see Boston is definitely with a native of the area. Loren was very accommodating taking us around and making sure we saw everything. I think one of the highlights is you can really see all of Boston in one day. We were able to walk all around the city and as tired as our legs were, we had seen it all!

We had been there once before when Wes and Jazz were little and we did the duck pond, going out into the paddle boats. The Boston Children’s Museum was one of our favorite places for many years but this time we were all a little too grown for that :-)

The Freedom Trail takes you to very historical places in Boston and Charleston which played a role during the American Revolution. It begins in Boston Commons where we were. Although we didn’t specifically intend to walk this trail we kept ending up on different parts of it in our daily travels. We came across a man in an American Revolution suit handing out papers that have published articles relevant to that time. Darrien, who is my youngest had a whole full-blown conversation with the man and he ended up giving him a free paper.

The Granary Burying Ground is where Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams are buried. We were just outside of the burial grounds when we came across the revolutionary man giving us a history briefing. Totally set the mood!

Duck Tours - you’re floating in a piece of American military history. These World War II amphibious vehicles will carry you from a land tour into the Charles River where you can continue to see the history of Boston, and our driver gave each kid a turn at the wheel. They all got to drive! Along with explaining the relevance of the places and the fun drive, were all happy! This was definitely worth the money and time, educational and entertaining! Wes however was dozing off because he hadn’t slept… that TV!

Copley Square – Originally known as “art square” due to so many art and cultural institutions surrounding. Many places to see and things to do here in the center hub or the city. The Boston Marathon finish line, Public Library, and John Hancock Tower all boarder along.

Trinity Church – After circling this fairy-tale castle of a Church, and taking some pictures we decided to go in. We are on a budget and $10.00 each for entry would have meant $50.00. Instead, we asked to use the restroom. We went down stairs and saw some of the magnificence. You have to decide what $50.00 is worth to you, or $10/ per person! But if you have an appreciation or art, woodwork, stone work, and stained glass windows this will be a magnificent stop!

Common Area Garden – The bridge crossing over the pond is a landmark spot for us. We just totally loved the great outdoors of Boston! Who doesn’t love statues, big trees, and a city filled with history all around you? Swans, ducks, and the feeling that you are getting smarter just by being here is all extra. Loren was kind enough to narrate the significant parts and add relevance!

Seaport District Suddenly the mood shifts. Summer Concerts, Street performers and music are everywhere while the glass contemporary buildings change the scenery completely. Overlooking the Wharf and pier we did walkover to check out some of the whaling ships. We also got some Italian ice and found a nice place to sit. We had done a lot of walking in a few days time and my legs actually ached! Ok… Next stop is back in Derry New Hampshire about an hour away, where we will sleep beautifully once again!

Our Boston take away: It’s a great little city! It’s known as a City of First’s. But to us it feels like a page out of history in the middle of a park. Green trees line the streets, it’s pretty hilly roads are well connected and there are so many people outside! This is not just a touristy spot, it’s an innovative little city! Packed with historical value! Darrien loved this the most and for the longest time it stayed #1 on his favorite places list. Could have been Loren buying fresh fruit and Italian Ices or driving the Duck Boat through the Charles River, but he loved this day! We read and reread the Revolution news paper many times in the months to come.

We also managed to visit her parents who still lived in Chelmsford Mass. They hosted an awesome summer cook out and we got to catch up. It was great to be welcomed in their home and really in so many places. Our journey was full of great people! As a family, we don't have a lot of family around us. So being around these people who love us and treat us so well is a little over whelming.

Ok, I needed some time to map our next steps… I was deciding… Didn’t look like we were going to Niagara Falls (I’d still been hoping this whole time) Loren and I walked the dogs and discussed the possibilities, but ultimately I decided to go to Plattsburg, and visit Eddie, then drive back to Long Island. So the next morning with a vacuumed and cleaned car, we drove out heading North once again.

We drove up to Vermont and over to NY. This is one of my favorite drives for a few reasons. As a lover of ancient Egyptian art and history, while we were leaving out of Loren’s subdivision, there was a bust of Nefertiti, who was a royal queen and Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, just sitting on top of a little rock display. I passed it then thought, no that isn’t meant to be there someone dumped that there. And went back to claim it! Road trip souvenir. A few hours up the very scenic path we came to a street sign reading New York Left (arrow pointing) Canada right (arrow pointing). I turned left. The kids started to protest saying “I can’t believe you didn’t make us take a picture by the sign”. Good point, I made a U-Turn in the middle of the road (there was no one else in sight) and then thought, wait, maybe I can get a picture of Canada or the Canadian Customs… so we drove a little farther. I figured I wouldn’t go too far out of the way but let’s just see what we can see. Well what we saw was the US Customs on out left and the street signs were no longer in English. No sign. No Welcome to Canada. No land mark or warning...

I made another sudden U-turn (because I didn’t want to do anything wrong) and found myself right in the long line of US Custom’s. I waited until we got up to the window and the agent asked me a series of questions. At this particular time we had a car full of all kinds of things. She asked where we were going. I explained I was in the wrong lane and didn’t mean to enter Canada, but had literally been here 30 seconds and an hour in the line. That was it. She asked if I had any fresh fruit or raw vegetables. No. Tobacco? No. Alcohol? No. Where were we headed? I explained. She didn’t crack a smile. Totally serious, She collected out passports,, well those of us who had them, she took my license. Did I have birth certificates? No. She asked the kids their names. They told her. She returned all of our IDs and we drove off. I had literally thought if they decided to search my car we’d be there all night. So much stuff in the car. Dunkin' Donuts, Taco Bell, cooler with all kinds of snacks and drinks but you know what? No fruit or veggies! Back in motion!

Upstate NY: About an hour later we were pulling up to our Hotel in Plattsburg NY. The Hampton Inn had good rates, availability along with free breakfast and a heated indoor pool! Sold!

We went in and got back out to see the town. I didn’t want to go far, but I wanted to see!!

This interesting little City is on the shore of Lake Champlain, and the Saranac River runs through it. While we were driving in there was a lot of people out riding bikes, and walking in fact we discovered there was a street festival going on! Honestly, I didn’t want to get in the mix of all the commotion I just wanted a quiet place in nature to walk. We crossed over to the obelisk standing in the middle of the town. The kids climbed up, and I sat on the bench just taking it all in. There was a little park and quaint little bridge, I just wanted to wander. We did. Until my brother called with his ETA and wasn’t too far away. So we met up and ended years of missed time. Why do we let so much time go by? Who knows.

After some hugs and some quick conversation we all determined it was time to eat and head to Friendlies for dinner. (There was a Friendlies in Glen Cove we used to go to.) My brother laughed about our Canadian escapade. He said they can’t deny you access to your own country. I said “if I’d known that I’d have accidentally crossed the border at the Niagara Falls Customs”. After a little consideration I said, "hey maybe I will do that tomorrow!" He definitely advised me against it but I was really leaning towards just going for it. He said Homeland security records all the people who cross the border and if you passed again it would be highly suspicious. Ok fine. FINE! Foiled again.

Then he took the kids to Walmart to buy them some video games, they had their Xbox already hooked up at the hotel. We were enjoying our visit and then Eddie left and we went to bed. Another bucket list person checked off my list!

In the morning we ate, swam a little and enjoyed hot showers before getting back on the road.

The 6 – 7 hour drive back to Long Island is scenic. Beautiful. Calming until you get closer to the city, and then invigorating.

Our Bucket List of people had a few more specific individuals before we could leave, but we were getting close.

We had a few final days left with Uncle Bill and friends before driving back to Chester for a night and back home to Palm Bay, Florida.

Raquel – My College buddy. We went to the Fashion Institute of Technology together and she was still living in the area in Queens. Since moving to Florida we had drifted and lost touch but I was able to connect with her and make plans! I picked her up and we went to Kissena Park in Queens and the kids played on the playground while we sat on the bench and talked. We got Mr. Smoothie (yay more icies!) and enjoyed the beautiful weather and being outdoors. The kids watched the ducks in the pond and we got to hang out for the first time in waaaay too long.

Erin – My first Co-Teacher, we taught together at North Shore Day School (Glen Cove), this was my first Pre-K class. We worked so well together and she ultimately encouraged me to go get certified to teach! Took me a while but I did! We met at Long Beach ,and our kids played on the pier together. It was a misty drizzly kind of day but the kids ran down to the big old Ocean while we stayed up on the board walk. They ran around and worked up an appetite!

Then we went for pizza and chicken parms there a couple blocks from the beach and caught up. Good talk, great visit, and another connection that will always be.

Liz – My sister’s best friend is more like a little sister than a friend to me. She came down to Uncle Bills from Glen Cove and we were able to cook, eat, and reminisce. Good visit and conversation, my favorite things!

It was that time. My sugar bowl was empty and it was time to get back on the road. We washed all the clothes, packed up the car and made sure to leave the house better than we found it. Happily, we drove out. I was feeling really good this time. Last time we’d drove out of NY to head home a blizzard was coming! BUT…. There was one little thing, and another bucket list person.

Our cousin Rochelle worked at the Empire State Building and we were going to meet her for lunch. Corner pizza in Manhattan is like heaven.5th Ave & 33rd St. - did not disappoint! Our last favorite food stop before heading out… and…The Sky Ride. On the second floor in (was) the Empire State Building is a 4-D big screen simulated ride that whips you through the City without ever leaving the building. I am not one for these types of rides as they make me a little dizzy so I try to close one eye and focus. Basically you are in a cab that is racing through the streets then falls into the river, and gets on the ferry to circle the Statue of Liberty... the whole time you are rocking and honking and feeling like you are on a roller coaster! The point is: We didn’t have an NYC Day. Unless you count the 4th of July, but we were in Brooklyn. I LOVE the City. I miss the City. This gave me a taste and although it was expensive was my last paid activity of our vacation. So I personally enjoyed it greatly. And then we headed out.

Angelique – Ok, one more one last stop. We hopped off an exit in Jersey to see Rochelle’s twin sister, Angelique! Our cousin agreed to meet us after her work day for some hugs and love briefly while we stretched before getting back into the car. Ok I was Waaaaay behind schedule now. Luckily Kim doesn’t care what time it is when we get there she is happy to open the door and let us in to sleep where ever we fall. Chester is still a good 10 hour drive, and there is no way to rush it. Luckily I don’t mind driving. But still, I didn't want to leave yet. I wanted to stay. This felt like home. Driving away pained my heart a little and no matter how much time I have it isn't enough. We still had people to see and things to do. I had a few friends messaging asking me to come visit on our way and I had to refocus. Sadly. And call our trip complete.

Back in VA we had to have a little fun before the last stretch of the Drive! Trampoline, slip and slide, home muffin baking and sales... there is never a dull day with 11 kids all ready to have a great time together.

The Drive to get from Palm Bay to our farthest North destination = Plattsburg NY is 2000 Miles.

Just getting there was already quite a distance. Our return South was a total of 1500 miles, as we had less stops in between.

3 weeks - 22 Days and just over 3500 miles driven. A beautiful Adventure.

People Seen.

Places experienced.

We were especially happy bout seeing our Uncle Eddie and making it up to Loren's! Proud of our miles we were feeling confident about traveling: getting up, getting out, and having fun!

We collected a bunch of ideas - as we already knew we would do it again. Our next trip to NY and pit stop in VA would be even better!! Next time I would book certain things in advance like the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and we’d make sure we had a full City Day. If this trip was about reconnecting wtih people, that trip would be about crossing these places off the list! I was already looking forward to it.

You can read about our 3rd trip here:

Or if you want our Best Of Washington DC itinerary See this post:

However, the map of THIS 2014 trip looks like this: The East Coast Expedition where we drove most of the East Coast and saw so many amazing places! We gain such an appreciation of history and the beautiful Earth we live on, as well as an appreciation for the USA!

Places (links) & costs:

Jumpolpgy - Groupon party discount $60.00

The National Zoo $20.00 Parking

Arlington Cemetery Free/ $2.00/ hour parking

Smith Family Party Free

Duck Tours Groupon – $80.00

Friendlies: $100.00 (Now Closed)

Long Beach Free (Pizza/ Subs = $40.00)

NYC – Pizza $20.00

Skyride Groupon $100.00 (now closed)

As you can see most of the places we went were free.

The majority of $ spent was on food and gas.

My car being family friendly was what made this trip amazing – Honda Pilot!

We spent some money on things that were strategic, and intentional.

And we are going to ear anyway, we would have been even better budgeted if we had eaten MORE picnic lunches!

Note: When to eat at home VS when to eat on the road:

So most of the times you will see I wrote Breakfast at home before we begin our traveling. For a few reasons: First - fast food is expensive so unless I really am trying to save time I will just eat where we are before starting out. Second - fast food is not very nutritious. Better nutrition is better energy and we want to be able to walk/ explore ALL day. If there are times we need to leave with out eating I will prepack breakfast items in the cooler, such as bagels or bacon egg and cheese sandwiches and then eat when we get down the road.

What to pack in the cooler??

We are big fans of Hawaiian rolls and lunch meat. I also made peanut butter n jelly sandwiches and sometimes a good pre-made sub. I always bring granola bars, Gatorade (lots of walking around on those hot days) and fruits. I love to have some nuts and chips and a good variety of what ever was on sale to make it yummy. Of course bottled waters and maybe a few frozen caprisuns which will be defrosted by the ride home.

Thank you for being a part of our journey!

God is good and pictures are fun ~ How much I enjoy looking back on these trips with the kids when I was bigger than half of them!

Our second trip under our belt's, we were already planning the stops for the 3rd trip.

The non-negotiables would be:

Bureau of Engraving & Printing in Washington DC

Niagara Falls

And more time in NYC to walk around and see stuff!

This trip was a success. Home again we all unpacked after what it felt like days in the car we stretched out at home and all retreated to our corners for some space!!

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