Sunday, October 11, 2009


It’s October 1st! We drove into downtown Chicago in the van and parked near Union Station. Ok, the bathrooms at the station officially get the top award for public restrooms on our trip. See pics below to see why.

We planned out our route for touring the city (thank you, Jeff, for your great suggestions) and boarded a water taxi to take us to the south end of the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Ave. We got some great views of the Sears Tower and other skyscrapers from the river. Walked to the ornate Water Tower – one of only two surviving buildings after the Great Chicago Fire. Adri had been wanting to get her ears pierced for awhile, and we let her get them done in the Water Tower Plaza. After that, we rode a very fast elevator to the top of the Hancock Building – 96th floor, I believe – and had coffee and snacks at the restaurant. The view from the women’s restroom is amazing, sorry guys.

We walked on down to Lake Michigan waterfront and walked and walked til we got to Millenium Park. There are some amazing sculptures and fountains to play around and we might have spent more time, but the rain was falling heavier by the minute. So, the guys left us at a Starbucks to warm up with lattes and hiked back to our van and then picked us up. We’ve made good use of Starbucks along our journey!

We drove out to Naperville outside the city to stay with Mike’s cousins, Jeff & Tracy and their little boy, Elias. So fun to see them again. They had bought Cubs t-shirts for all the kids to help them fit in for the game at Wrigley Field the next day. Jeff also treated us to Chicago-style pizza – yum!

The Cubs game was great in spite of their sad loss to the Diamondbacks. There is so much tradition in that stadium. We had Chicago dogs – hotdogs piled with grilled onions, tomatoes, peppers and mustard – as we watched them play. The weather was cold and rainy – more like football weather.
All in all we enjoyed Chicago and our time with Jeff & Tracy -- thanks a bunch, cousins!

Yes, automatic plastic seat covers...the reason Chicago's Union Station won the "Best Public Restroom" award on our trip!

The view from the women's restroom on the 96th floor of the Hancock

Newly pierced ears

The Water Tower

High-rise apartments and a fun public trasportation system

Ben & Elias

Pretty cool fountain in Millenium Park

Fun at the "Bean"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Niagara Falls

After driving for a while next to the Erie Canal, we arrived in Buffalo, NY, in the evening of the 29th and drove around town looking for a place to have Buffalo wings. Found a great little hole-in-the-wall and chowed down about 60 delicious wings between all 8 of us!

Mom & Dad decided to find an RV park for the night and we opted for another parking lot. After we split up, we remembered that the falls were supposed to be lit at night and decided it would be fun to try to see it that way. It was well worth it! They are lit with alternating colors of lights and the beauty and power are incredibly impressive. In the morning, we viewed the falls with Mom & Dad and were awed once again. So much water falling off those cliffs. Some of our family kept being reminded of a Calvin & Hobbs cartoon having to do with Niagara Falls :). The weather had turned cold and we also were anxious to get headed for Chicago, so we chose not to do the boat ride close to the bottom of the falls. It would probably have been even more impressive from down there.

On our way out of town, we saw a sign for an old carousel and museum and stopped for a quick tour of the workshop and ride on the wooden ponies.

Hit the road and drove though Ohio, Indiana, a quick detour just across the Michigan state line, and arrived pretty tuckered out at our hotel outside of Chicago, Illinois, about midnight. We enjoyed driving in these farmland states. It amazed us how quickly it seemed we left the trees and hills of New England and upstate New York behind and entered the plains. Tomorrow we’ll sight-see in the windy city.

Beautiful, beautiful place

Yummy wings! Adri got a new bike in Niagara Falls as hers was falling apart.

The carousel factory

New England

New England looks so “New England-ish”. As we drove up to New Hampshire, we noticed that nearly all the houses are colonial or cape cod in style and decorated so charmingly – window boxes, wreaths on doors, beautiful fall flowers. The trees were just beginning to change color – somewhat disappointing to us as we’d hoped to see the NE in all its splendor -- but it was still very pretty.

We arrived at Mike’s cousins – Peter & Sara Whitehouses – in the afternoon on Saturday. Mom and Dad and Uncle Doug and Aunt Sue were already there, and we all had lunch and dinner together. The kids started getting to know their cousins, Emma and Julia, right away and had such fun together for those couple days. We went to church with them on Sunday and had a relaxing day playing lots of games and watching the Patriots. Thank you, cousins, for such warm hospitality!

On Monday we drove the hour or so over to the Maine Coast. Our first stop was at Nubble Lighthouse – so picturesque atop a rock with waves crashing at the base. The day turned out to be beautiful and warm and we played and relaxed at Ogunquit Beach for a couple hours. Before we left Maine, we had a late lunch at Mike’s Clam Shack – amazing clam chowder & clam strips. We also bought two live lobsters to cook that evening – Yum! As we left to head back to New Hampshire, we realized that this was as far east as we would travel; that from here on the compass would mostly say West. We were heading home.

Very early Tuesday morning we pulled out with the hope to reach Niagara Falls by night. Mom & Dad took a different route for today as they hoped to meet up with one of Dad’s old Navy buddies. These northeast states are so small, we soon entered Vermont and climbed into some beautiful mountains. Near the top of the pass, we took a break at a lookout spot that boasted a 100 mile view of colorful hills and ridges. Found a couple places along the road to get some Vermont cheese and maple syrup. And though we looked hard in all the high swampy fields, we didn’t see a single moose.

The Mathews clan in New Hampshire

Playing on the Maine coast

Nubble Lighthouse

The 100 mile view in Vermont

Having fun with cousins Emma & Julia

Monday, October 5, 2009

Plymouth & Boston

On Wednesday, Sept. 23rd we left NYC and started heading up towards Plymouth and Boston. Drove up the east coast and stopped at the little fishing village of Stonington, Connecticut, close to Mystic Seaport. We walked around the boats a little bit, visited with a couple locals, the kids got some energy out at a playground and we found some very fresh scallops to buy. Kept on driving and finally found a nice campsite on Cape Cod at Scusset Beach.

The next morning was Mom’s birthday. We made homemade doughnuts and scrambled eggs for her and then walked down to the beach. It was such a pretty day and the water was fairly warm for this far north. The kids really wanted to stay and play longer but we had plans to go to Plimouth Plantation and thought we shouldn't miss that experience. Promised them we'd try to get one more time to play in the Atlantic before we left it.

Had a wonderful afternoon at Plimouth Plantation which is a replica settlement of the original pilgrim village. It is so authentically done and they have actors dressed up in costume who know the historical person they are portraying in the village and stay in character as you talk with them. They do an amazing job. Elizabeth was thrilled when one pilgrim woman handed her a baby goat.

In the evening we drove into the town of Plymouth and saw the Plymouth rock -- kind of small and unimpressive, but we thought it's cool that this was right where the pilgrims landed. Celebrated Mom's birthday with dinner at nice seafood restaurant right on the water, and a few of us ordered lobster. The picture at the top tells you Luke's opinion of lobster. We've spoiled him forever. Mom and Adri weren't as impressed :). Our computer led us on a wild goose chase to find a campground for the night so we settled for a Wal-mart parking lot. Ate Mom's birthday cake at about 10pm and then we all crashed.
Friday morning dawned crisp and cool -- our first real taste of fall. We drove into Boston and were immediately impressed by how clean and quiet the city was, especially after New York. Liked all the old buildings interspersed with the new skyscrapers. The Freedom Trail was an awesome history walk. Got to see Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church, the spot where the Boston massacre occurred, Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill, and toured "Old Ironsides" -- we still are so thrilled by the history at our fingertips. Most of us made the steep climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument -- 294 steps -- and those less in shape paid for it with some pretty sore leg muscles the next few days. Took at ferry boat from the Charleston side back to the Boston side -- it was like doing Paul Revere's stealthy boat trip past the British ships in reverse. The Old North Church's steeple is still very visible from the water and you could just imagine seeing those two lanterns shine for a brief moment. Mom & Dad left us this evening for New Hampshire where Dad's brother, Doug, lives, and we ended up deciding a Marriott sounded pretty good verses another Wal-mart night.

The next morning we spent visiting Lexington Green and Concord. It was such a beautiful, blue-sky day and we would have loved to have more time here. Drove by Louisa May Alcott's home in Concord but didn't have time to stop. We dropped the kids and their bikes off on the road to Concord and they biked ahead of us for a mile or so past some of the actual farm homes and buildings that Paul Revere would have galloped near as he alerted the colonists, "The Regulars are out!". We walked across the north bridge in Concord where the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired.

All in all we loved the Boston area and agreed it would be a great place to come back to at some later date to experience more fully the history here.

Plymouth rock and a fishing boat in Stonington

Our Cape Cod camp and Mom's response to her trick birthday candles :)

Fun times at Plimouth Plantation

The Boston Massacre happened in front of this building

Paul Revere's house and his monument

"Old Ironsides" is still seaworthy

The Boston skyline with the Old North Church/Bunker Hill monument

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New York City

The Big Apple! We found this to be one city you have to experience to even remotely begin to comprehend. It’s been fun being on sensory overload the last two days!

We arrived north of the city on Saturday night (Sept 20th) and decided to stay in a hotel for our time here. We felt it was worth it to have good nights rests and hot breakfasts. A hotel room feels pretty spacious after the motorhome.

Sunday morning we went to a Baptist church here in Nanuet and it was good to worship and reflect. We all were tired and needed a day of rest so just stayed at the hotel, watched TV, worked on the blog, played games – it was wonderful.

Monday morning we drove into the city. Manhattan is so huge -- compared to Philadelphia, D.C. or Seattle – the downtown area is so much bigger. It just goes and goes and goes. High-rise after sky-scraping high-rise. The cabs, subways, noise, people, smells, lights – when you stand on a street corner and realize that everything you are seeing and sensing is being multiplied on hundreds of other street corners within the same downtown area, you have this feeling that it’s like a huge, multi-tiered anthill that never stops moving, crawling, producing, expending energy. We experienced Times Square on Monday and Tuesday nights and it was as bright as day and teeming with shoppers, business people and partiers. Hard to express what this city is like.

Some of our New York highlights – the Statue of Liberty and the beautiful views of the city from her pedestal; New York pizza; viewing the Twin Towers site and the Firefighter memorial at Station 10; Times Square at night; a picnic and carriage ride in Central Park; riding the NY subway and double-decker bus; sausage dogs from a sidewalk cart; watching outdoor chess and backgammon games; walking down Wall Street and shopping at Macy’s. Regrettably, we did not get to see a play – maybe next time.

Macy's, Empire State Bldg. and Wall Street

Times Square and our carriage ride in Central Park

NY Dogs and chess

Engine 10 and Ground Zero

Just kicking back for a day