Planning Continues…….

Our family is, well, not normal in a lot of ways. One thing that makes us a bit odd is that we love to travel, but we don’t have the money to do it the “normal” way. Most people prefer not to drive long distances, especially with children. Our kids are used to many long hours in the car. Even our six year old knows to give us a half hour warning before bathroom emergencies. Most people prefer plush hotels. We camp often. Most people would look at our travel plans and tell us we’re crazy.

I actually had someone tell me once that we would quite possibly die if we stuck to our plans for our trip to Europe. We had an 18 month old child at the time (crazy idea #1 – no one takes little kids on vacation to Europe). We had planned to rent a large car and to drive from Paris to Rome and back (crazy idea #2 – NO one drives long distances across Europe). We went during winter (crazy idea #3 – no one goes to Europe in winter). With a family of four, it was more economical for us to drive between cities than to fly or take a train. Also, I preferred the idea of having the kids enclosed in our vehicle.  Our potentially fussy children would not be a bother to other passengers, like they would on a train or plane. We could set our own schedule and stop as needed in a car. So we ended up taking our own path, cramming together driving/walking/subway tours of every major city in Italy, a stop in Switzerland, and a week in Paris into 18 too-short days. We did not slide off a snowy mountain road in the Alps. Our children did not die of boredom in the car. Instead, we generated a bunch of memories that we will always treasure. Many of them surrounded little towns in France that we stopped in to acquire groceries for the day, the sweet way people in Italy reacted to the way our little blond baby on the bus said “ciao”, or the way Parisian museum guards with large machine guns approached us to tell us (oh no, what did we do wrong??) that families with small children don’t have to wait in lines in Paris, and that we were to go straight into the front door.

For our family, travel is about adventure, education, and making memories.  We do not travel in the normal way. We drive too far in a day, we pack too many awesome sights into each day, we hike too far, we take too many pictures, we end each day worn out, we sleep hard, we wake up early (well, not too early), and we do it all again.

After finalizing the itinerary and booking all the hotels and campsites, I can honestly say, this trip is going to be exhausting. We are really going to be pushing ourselves. I am glad this will take place in the summer. I’ll have a few days after school ends for getting our gear together, and a couple of weeks after we return to get ready for the next school year. It will not be a “normal” summer for us, but it will be a wonderful experience. I know people are going to look at this itinerary and say we’re trying to do too much. I know they will say our kids will be bored in the car. I know they will say that we haven’t planned enough time in ____ National Park. I know I will completely agree with that last comment. I keep looking at the map and thinking “if only we had ONE more day, we could see this other amazing place (Carlsbad Caverns, for one),” and “if only we could stay longer at ___, we could take this overnight hike”. But I know we have to draw the line somewhere.  Hopefully, this won’t be our last trip to the Southwest, so we’ll be planning the next trip while we’re on this one.

So, here goes.  The Official Itinerary (with links!)

So, there it is. Our crazy plan. I think it can be done. I think we will love it. I think we will want more time. I can’t wait to share the journey with you!

Introducing my Flickr photostream

I generally share my personal photos with friends and family using Facebook and videos on youtube.  I love Facebook for lots of reasons, but I’m starting to generate some photos and video that could look better if they weren’t compressed.  I’m giving Flickr a shot for full resolution photos.  I’ll see what I can work out on a solution for the videos eventually, but here’s a link to my very small (for now) photostream on Flickr:

Anyone have suggestions for me on the video issue?  It seems like there must be a way to do HD video on youtube, but maybe it requires a paid subscription or something.  One of these days I’ll have time to research it.

Learning the ropes of video blogging

My original plan was to make a blog, but then I decided I’d try to do a vlog, or video log.  My plan is to interview scientists and park rangers along the way on our trip out west.  After this “little” trip, I see the one thing that is going to limit my vlogging is internet access!  I’ve had wireless internet everywhere I’ve gone, but it has often been S  L  O  W !  So today, when we arrived at the Park Vista hotel in Gatlinburg, TN and found really fast internet, it was all-hands-on-deck for uploading.  The Park Vista is our one big splurge on this trip.  We’ve cooked most of our own meals, stayed in budget-friendly hotels, and paid for fewer tours and museums than we would have liked.  Tonight we have a suite on the top floor of the 15-story round hotel building with a balcony that overlooks Smokey Mountain National Park.  We rolled in, checked out the room, started our uploads and then headed to the pool (with two waterslides – Yeehaaa!).  After swimming, we came up and ate left overs.  And now my uploads are done and I have a few more videos for you.  I uploaded three videos in a couple of hours today, when yesterday’s video took all night.  I guess you get what you pay for in hotel internet.  Unfortunately, we’re going super cheap on the big trip, so upload time may be a problem.  I guess it will be OK if I have lots to upload when I get home.  It will still be summer vacation then!

Today’s youtube selections include more GoPro videos from the City Museum.  All video, no time-lapse this time.  There are a couple you won’t want to watch if you’re prone to dizziness.

FIrst off, we have Evan at the Skateless Park.  This is a skate park, but no wheels are allowed.  The younger kids were really impressed with his skills.

Next is Kieran going down the Monster slide.  It’s triangular and has rollers down the sides.  Fun!

This one will make anyone dizzy.  There was a room full of these huge plastic spindle-things.  Evan shows us the best use of them.

Last, but not least, here is me trying to show off the drum stairs.  The sound really didn’t come out the way I had hoped.

Should I dig around for more pictures or video that I haven’t posted yet?  I’m sure there are tons!  I think I’ll leave that for another day and enjoy the last night of vacation on my balcony.

Interesting videos from NOLA

My husband David tends to be the man behind the video camera.  Here are a few videos he’s made with the new camcorder.  The first few are at Barataria Preserve in Jean Lafitte National Park.  Turn up the sound and listen to the frogs…

Here is an adult American alligator and a baby in front of her (I’m assuming this is Mama, but I don’t know.

And here’s a swimming gator.

And on a completely unrelated note, here is a street musician in NOLA.

We are enjoying capturing the sights and sounds of the south!



Testing our equipment on the road

Before I received the Lilly grant, we had a family vacation planned for Spring Break 2014.  Our plan was to head to St. Louis to visit the City Museum, then to find geocaches (see below) in Arkansas and Texas to add to our list of states in which we’ve found caches.  Then we were going to spend a few days in and around New Orleans, LA, then Mobile, AL.  At the end of the trip, we planned to head to Gatlinburg, TN for a night before heading home.  We already had reservations for all the hotels and the rental home in Algiers Point, LA and most were paid for.  So when we got the news about the grant, we made a slight adjustment to the itinerary (dropped TX, since we’ll get caches there this summer), but decided to continue pretty much as planned.  We decided this would be a good chance to see how a really big trip with lots of camera equipment would work out.  Below are some links to things we’ve seen on this “little” trip.

First, if you aren’t familiar with geocaching, you should check out the short video at this link:

Also, if you are interested in the City Museum, here is our oldest son, Evan in the outdoor section of it.  This was taken with our new GoPro.  The City Museum is an amazing place that is really hard to explain.  If you can imagine what Dr. Seuss would do if he were a welder and had access to tons of discarded structural materials, you might get a sense of what this place is.  It is the most creative, imaginative place on earth!  The outdoor area is not my favorite part, but we learned a few hard lessons in my favorite part.  First of all, time lapse is not good in dark places.  Second, video is better than time lapse with a little guy Kieran, age 6) as the camera man.  Third, with time lapse, there’s a lot of editing required to throw out the pictures that are blurry or looking the wrong way.  Fourth, these things take forever to upload!  Bottom line, I have tons of pictures that are going to require some time to get through.  I’ll post more of them one day.  Here’s one timelapse:  My favorite part of the museum is indoors and is just a variety of places to climb, slither, crawl, and slide.  The City Museum’s motto should be something like this: May I climb through this?  YES.  Can I climb through this? MAYBE.  Should I climb through this?  MAYBE NOT.  There are no rules at the City Museum.  You have free reign to climb in, on, through just about everything.  Some spaces are too small for normal-sized adults, but most of them can be accessed by most people willing to try it out.  I would advise anyone to go there, wear knee pads and sturdy shoes, and have fun.  Don’t sit on the benches with the boring parents.  Get in there and have fun with the kids!

I’ll post about our experiences in NOLA and Mobile soon.  It has been amazing and we have learned much about using our cameras well.  Besides the new GoPro, we bought a regular video camera, (a Sony HDR-PJ540) and brought along our older cameras: an Olympus E-Volt 300 DSLR and a Sony Cybershot DSC-WX9.  Travel is always an educational experience for us, so throwing the video equipment into the mix has just added to the adventure.