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American History

After our two weeks exploring the deep south, we made our way to Kinston, North Carolina. We were told about this gem of a campground from some fellow travelers and were excited to use this as a week to catch up on work, and all things needing internet. The campground was a no-frills type without bath houses, laundry facilities and people riding around in golf carts with their little dogs, and it was lovely. Only $12 a night, with great WiFi, a nature center, playground and small science museum with a planetarium (all for FREE) right on site. The kids were a bit too old for the science museum, but we explored it anyway and enjoyed it. I highly recommend this campground for anyone, but especially for those with young kids.

Kinston leaves a lot to be desired BUT you must go here, if for nothing else but the campground and THIS restaurant. I say this without having gone there and this is one regret I have on this trip, but I will fuel this regret as a good reason to come back to Kinston. I had heard about this restaurant from our friends but I really forgot about it and toward the end when I was tuned back into it and looked at the menu online I didn’t see a lot of offerings for me and it was pretty expensive so we just decided to fore go. But since then I have become obsessed with this TV show all about the chef, her husband and their restaurant in town. Seriously, you must watch it. Its better than any cooking show I’ve watched in YEARS. I can’t wait for the chance to make a way through Kinston and stop there.

The boys and I did visit the CSS Neuse II, the world’s only full sized replica of a Civil War gunboat that is just neat to add to the list of sites sprinkled throughout the eastern south. I also enjoyed their farmers market (featured on the TV show) and the very nice health food store in town.

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After Kinston, we headed to Williamsburg and stayed in our last campground that was a part of our membership with Thousand Trails. We stayed there a short time (4 days) with the main reason to visit Colonial Williamsburg, but this was a great campground as well that we would definitely come back to.

I cannot say enough about Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg. It was absolutely fabulous. First we went to Jamestown which is actually where the first settlers came to America 13 years before the pilgrims landed. We learned the real story of Pocahontas as told by history not by Disney and we experienced the evidence as it is being uncovered of the brutality of survival in harsh times. If it weren’t for these brave men and women, we would not be here. We were honored to listen to a talk by John Rolfe himself (an actor of course) who led a talk on the history of the time and even spoke to the boys after, giving them a good lecture on having your own mind, and making sure that what you are learning is true, even if told to you by well meaning adults and teachers. A lesson we are hoping we teach our boys more than anything else – explore what you learn, ask questions, and if something doesn’t sound right, you probably need to investigate it further. My favorite quote from him was, “Remember, history is told from the perspective of  the winners. but there is always another side.” Isn’t that the truth with so. many. things?

Beautiful scenery here

Beautiful scenery here

Pocahontas is the coolest!

Pocahontas is the coolest!

John Rolfe giving a lecture

John Rolfe giving a lecture

Austin’s take on Jamestown:

This week I went to jamestown. OK so plymouth rock is not the start of America. So now that we got that out of the way plus the english wanted to eat people because they were starving and it was called jamestown. They came here for iron and gold ore for money plus an indian girl called pocahontas was captured by the english and she started to worship god. Plus she changed her name to rebecca and that is how we were at peace with the indians and our only chance of survival was the indians.

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Colonial Williamsburg was a thrill and it is one of those places everyone must go. I knew it would be good to put on the list and we almost didn’t go and I am so glad we did. I did some research before we headed there, but it still was hard to understand what you get with a paying ticket. Let me be clear – you CAN go to Colonial Williamsburg without paying and just walk around the streets and be a part of whatever is going on that day on the streets (be sure to grab a schedule in the visitors center), but you will not be able to go into any of the buildings like the gunsmith, the apothecary, the blacksmith, courthouse and many more where they educate you on what it would be like to live when our country’s way of life and government was being established from people in character. I (we) learned so much. If you are a home school family you can get quite a significant discount, just call ahead to let them know and be prepared to bring with you a letter from your school district proving you are homeschooling (although they didn’t even look at mine, its good to be prepared).

The governors palace

The governors palace

Other than learning about the way of life of the early settlers, we experienced a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, a wedding between two slaves before the husband was leaving with his master, the public uproar and rallying around a young man who was being forced to go and join the war, AND a confrontation with Benedict Arnold himself. Can you even imagine? It was thrilling!

Alec being used as an example of bandaging in the apothecary shop

Alec being used as an example of bandaging in the apothecary shop

My boys loved the blacksmith and had a ton of questions!

My boys loved the blacksmith and had a ton of questions!

The palace kitchen - she was cooking a feast!

The palace kitchen – she was cooking a feast!

Here’s what Austin had to say and as always you can find Alec’s on his blog:

2 weeks ago I went to williamsburg virginia. it was like disney world but it was history rather than roller coasters and it was fun.  There was a slave wedding of course it was not real. We even got to hear the declaration of independence and benedict arnold and cool army men. It  felt like I was in the 18th century.

Outside the courthouse

Outside the courthouse

Gathering for the reading of the Declaration of Independance

Gathering for the reading of the Declaration of Independence

A confrontation with Benedict Arnold... do we know all of THIS story?

A confrontation with Benedict Arnold… do we know all of THIS story?

Alec learning to write with quill and ink

Alec learning to write with quill and ink

If you are taking a trip to DC as everyone does, put this on your list. You will NOT be disappointed!

Living in the moment while planning for the future

Our days are starting to fill with talk of the end.

The end of this way of life.

The end of this trip.

Many decisions we have been pondering are starting to be made like where will we live? Where will I start my nursing career? What will the kids do for school?

We have officially decided to move back to Colorado. It is a place we love and long for and have longed for since we left it 7 years ago. Its where our souls come alive and we can’t deny it any longer. This time, however we are doing it right. We will be moving there owning nothing, with no financial burdens and being closer to Denver so that it can make travel back to family and friends easy. I have already been offered a position as a summer camp nurse at a camp for children with disabilities and as much as I am extremely excited I am also feeling a bit emotional about it all. This year has been the most incredible year in so many ways, but as we knew when we started it would have to come to an end.

So now as we think about transitioning back to the “real world” we do wonder, how can we keep this way of life and the things we learned while getting back to “real life”. How can we keep things simple, not get too busy or too cluttered or too tied down. This traveling lifestyle really does get in your blood, and though we do long for structure and certainty for our days, as well as a better social environment for the boys, we do want to keep traveling and trying new things and being free to “go and do”. It will just take on a new definition, not as full time travel, but as a free-er way of living.

At least… we hope.

We just signed a lease on an incredible rental home in Evergreen on 2 acres where our best friends also live and the boys will continue homeschooling. I have found an incredible home school coop we can become a part of and the job prospects beyond summer are looking good for me in Denver or the surrounding areas.

Brandon’s business continues to thrive and he will continue to have his home office and assist the boys when I am not there.

That’s all we know right now…. so now the challenge is to stay in the moment and really enjoy all the things that are to come. We have a busy Washington DC experience planned, and then making our way through Pennsylvania and visiting more friends on the way home.

Isn’t life really about enjoying the moment?

Right now?

The Deep South… or The Low Country

We took a whirlwind day to get from Florida to South Carolina. We pushed it and drove longer than we ever have in one day. It brought back memories of the first part of our trip where we were inexperienced but now, we are pros so we handled it beautifully. I’ve learned that the more food you pack, the better you pack up the night before, and dunkin donuts for the kids the morning of – makes it all go smoothly.

We pulled into Yemassee, South Carolina to one of the last Thousand Trails parks in our membership. This one was a bit interesting, a little run down, the pool wasn’t working, but the people were lovely and there was another full time family with a whole bunch of boys, so we knew it would be okay. We arrived the day before Easter so we were excited to find out they would be having an Easter potluck the next day. The boys have learned to love potlucks.

I quickly learned about the term “The Deep South” as we got to know the area we were in. South Carolina is steeped in Civil War history as it is where it began and you can’t go anywhere without realizing it. The deep south is a term defined as the areas of the south most dependent on plantation-type agriculture and slavery during the pre-Civil war period. I have been to South Carolina before both to Myrtle beach and Hilton Head, but that is not the same thing. People would call those areas “The Low Country” which is defined as the geographical regions along the coast including the sea islands, which are known for their beauty and tourism.

I took the boys to nearby Walterboro to experience the Slave Relic Museum. I wasn’t allowed to take many pictures, and I’m not sure they would really do it justice anyway, its something you just have to experience. It was powerful and intense. A wonderful couple from New York who had been collecting antique slave relics as a hobby decided to move to South Carolina to open the museum because their entire family was from there and they knew it was important to bring it to the community. I don’t think the boys will ever forget this experience. They held shackles, they learned about how the slaves were brought over, saw what the slaves’ quarters were like and heard from someone who is passionate about telling the slave’s stories. If you are ever near here, I urge you to go. It is important history for us to know.

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Holding shackles

Holding shackles

Austin’s take on it:

 Today I went to the slave relic museum. It was really good plus the people who ran the place were so nice.  It  was very descriptive and it was kind of sad.  We got to hold the shackles they were heavy. There was a church in savannah that the slaves used like the underground railroad to escape.

After this, we took a drive to find the Tuskagee Airmen Monument which pays tribute to the first African American military aviators in the U.S. who fought in World War II. This monument is housed at the Lowcountry airport which used to be the Walterboro Army Airfield where these men received their final training before their heroic battles began. Whether the boys remember all of this or not, or it makes the kind of impression on them it is making on me, I want them to have it in their heads because I know the appreciation will be there. They are truly experiencing history in an entirely different way than I did at their age. You can only read about things in a text book so much, but to experience it, touch it… that’s how it sticks with you, that’s how you truly learn.

SC-tuskageeNext on our list was Hilton Head Island. One of my very best friends who I have known since we were 4 years old would be there with her family for their spring break, so I was happy to find out we would be in the area at the same time. So we were able to get one more beach day and it was gorgeous! So fun to hang out with good friends and for the boys to get some more “kid time”.

Kids playing!

Kids playing!

We also weren’t far from Savannah which I was excited to experience having never been. We had been told by the gentleman at the slave relic museum that the oldest church in Savannah was still standing there and had underground tunnels where slaves were able to escape. we weren’t able to go inside the church, but it was a beautiful site to see.

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We also had to see Chippewa Park and the famous spot where Forrest Gump sat in the movie. The bench is no longer there, having been moved to the museum, but watching the movie again with the boys was fun for all of us to take pictures right where the movie was filmed.

The boys always humor me with my picture taking.

The boys always humor me with my picture taking.

And of course, who can go to Savannah and not try out Paula Dean’s restaurant The Lady and Sons. She has a lovely lunch buffet and I knew Austin especially really wanted to some old fashioned fried chicken. They all gave it a thumbs up. I had the fried green tomatoes which were lovely and of course sweet tea!

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We drove to Fort Pulaski, another Civil War site that was a turning point in military history as experimental longer range canons were used by Union soldiers which led to the surrender at Fort Pulaski and the closing of Savannah as a port. You could see actual damage done by the canons, experience what it was like inside the fort and even walk around the top of the Fort which I have never seen before. This is not for little kids – there are no guard rails! Yikes!

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The best perspective of its entirety

The best perspective of its entirety

SC-ft-pulaski-2We also took a drive to Beaufort, South Carolina which used to be a city where the wealthy plantation owners had their summer homes. Our first stop – the Kazoo Factory! Who knew? The kids ended up having a great time. We took a tour, assembled our own and played them a lot! This is the only factory assembling kazoos in the U.S. Another must see stop if you are in the area!

I think Austin is faking it here.

I think Austin is faking it here.

The Beaufort National Cemetery was our main goal and it was quite thrilling to see. Other than being beautiful with all the live oak trees surrounding (which unfortunately Austin is SO allergic to), the cemetery is laid out with a map to each section. There was a section for the first black soldiers (and even highlights soldiers who were in the movie “Glory”), a section for Union soldiers and then a section for the Confederate soldiers. A fascinating fact on the confederate grave stones is they are the only ones that are pointed and legend has it this was to keep the people who were there visiting their union soldier graves from sitting on the confederate grave stones.

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We visited an old church which has been there since the Revolutionary War and is among the oldest buildings in South Carolina. There were grave stones there dated in the 1700′s and were quite fascinating to see. Rumor has it this church was used as a hospital during the Civil War and the gravestones were used as operating tables.

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Beautiful... and eerie.

Beautiful… and eerie.

On the way back to camp we stopped at the Sheldon Church Ruins which turned out to be a beautiful picture taking opportunity. This church was burned down in the Revolutionary War, rebuilt and then burned again in the Civil War. The grave of Colonel William Bull, who was instrumental in helping General Oglethorpe establish Savannah, is found inside the ruins.

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History is truly coming alive!