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I’m finally up-to-date on my listings! I can’t figure out if it makes more sense to put pics and stuff in the listings or write blog posts. Listings seem much easier for me to write because they don’t have to be “about” anything other than notes on where we are and what we are doing. But then, no one gets any notification of listings and maybe everything gets lost here?

We decided to get a vacation rental after a string of cold weather in San Antonio and my loss of interest in walking through dirt to get to showers. Lucky we did, too, because the weather in Santa Fe is truly cold this week. Worked out great for K and the kids to be able to go skiing and for Teddy to have lots of space to explore (rented a fenced 1.5 acre property). I don’t think I really mind that the house is in kind of a junkyard dog area of town because it is very pretty inside and has everything we need.

Teddy likes being the King of his Domain

Teddy likes being the King of his Domain

Teddy and his girlfriend next door, who tries to bite him through the fence but he doesn't mind.

Teddy and his girlfriend next door, who tries to bite him through the fence but he doesn’t mind.

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Roswell has been on our list of places to visit since way back when there was some anniversary event of the UFO stuff and tons of people where making pilgrimages. K and I thought about going just for the heck of it but chose instead to be practical (and regretted it ever since). Plus, D is all interested in the conspiracy theories.

Turned out to be a perfect place for a one day stop – not much going on there. The UFO museum was interesting and they made a good case for a big government cover-up. But, ugh, cow smells everywhere, especially at our RV park!

A fits right in!

A fits right in!

Finally a little warm enough to sit outside. Nice junkyard view from our RV spot. Lucky it's not a scratch-n-sniff.

Finally a little warm enough to sit outside. Nice junkyard view from our RV spot. Lucky it’s not a scratch-n-sniff.

Seems like we got out of town just in time. Weather turned and we drove out in snow and icy rain and strong winds.

Off to Santa Fe where we are renting a HOUSE!

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Last night in Texas; just an overnight. We thought about a Walmart stop but ended up at an oddly pretty place – lured by the promise of sparkling clean bathrooms, laundry and a fenced dog area and the chance to make some grilled pizza. The light was really pretty here, with expansive views in all directions. Not really views “of” anything but a pretty desert sky nonetheless.

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Turns out we could have seen Keith Urban in concert on Valentine’s Day, if only we did some advance planning. Instead, we just got stuck in traffic with all the people who did get to go to the show.

We put San Antonio on the list based on a recommendation from some random guy at one of the Austin RV parks who told us the KOA was really nice, with bike trails accessible right from the park. That, and some curiosity with San Antonio and San Diego vying back and forth for America’s 9th Largest City each year.

We ended up staying five nights (longish time for us) so K and D could do their western shooting day on Thursday but it also turned out to be during the big rodeo time, right down the road from the KOA. We were kind of clueless about it until we pondered all the horse and other animal trailers all around us.

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A few days of cold, windy weather got us (me) feeling crabby and sick of the dirt lifestyle, but we ended with a pretty day and a plan to rent a house for a week in Santa Fe, NM. On the way, we will stop in Roswell, NM to check out the UFO info.

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Here is where we wanted to be! I booked a week at the Pecan Grove RV Park, right in the midst of the action in Austin. I read about this place several years ago – it’s supposed to be the hippest RV park around, with a years long waiting list for a permanent spot. The location could not be beat and it was fun to be close to everything and to be able to ride bikes right to miles of beautiful paths, but it was really just like any other RV Park but with grosser bathrooms and no picnic tables. And a big intact Chocolate Lab that liked to come pee on “our” bush and growl at Teddy. No Matthew McConaughey sightings, either. Don’t get me wrong – we’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

Austin highlights were visiting with K’s nephew and with my old friend and her family, eating barbeque, riding bikes and soaking up the great young people energy in Austin. I think my kids got a good picture of how fun it will be to be independent young men.

From here, we have a longish stop in nearby San Antonio for K and D to participate in a Western Shooting lesson.

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Earlier on, we signed up for Passport America membership – providing 50% off rates at a whole bunch of RV parks. Little did we know that most of the places would be run-down, somewhat unsavory options and/or would have black out dates for any time that we would want to visit. (The exception being the place we are going to stay for two weeks in San Diego – exactly where I want to be and membership shaved $400 off the cost!)

So, anyway, we picked this place to use our Passport America for a few days to shave down some of our costs (and to take advantage of a fenced dog area, natch). As expected, it was kind of crummy on the side of a freeway. It didn’t help that the weather was cold and the trees were bare and it reminded me of our horrible week at the RV park in Greensboro. I’d take Teddy for a walk, stepping around the broken glass, pondering why the used car lot needed an electrical fence and trying to keep him from wanting to engage with a random guy wandering the area. Good times.

I did meet a guy in the campground dog area who was wrapping up a similar trip with his wife. His white dog was shedding so he was left to ponder whether he needed a black dog or maybe switch to white t-shirts from the black he usually wears. Big questions.

Also noteworthy – THOUSANDS of birds freaking out at the H-E-B supermarket parking lot. No one else seemed to care but I was more than a little freaked myself.

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Just an overnight stop on the way to Austin. We stayed at a nice enough place (single bathrooms!!) but it was raining and it was a dreary long drive so we were ready to hit the road and get out of there.

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Oops, got this one out of order on our map. We went to Pensacola Beach right after Naples, FL, with an overnight stop in Lake City, FL to check out the campground that had such widely divergent reviews that my curiosity got the better of me and I had to see for myself. Was the owner a psychotic maniac or was he just the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet? (Turns out he was perfectly fine to us.)

Our RV park was right along the water and just across the street from the real beach. Pretty much just a parking lot but a pretty location right on the tourist main drag. Highlights of our stay included visiting with my cousin and his family (see separate post), touring the Naval Air Museum, checking out an old fort, romping with Teddy on the beach and stocking up on Teddy’s raw dog food – finally back at a reasonable cost after jacked up prices in the other areas of FL.

From Pensacola, we headed to New Orleans.

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1/30-2/3 New Orleans
February 22015

Luckily, existing reviews were pretty clear in warning that the approach to this place in New Orleans was dodgy at best but also true in the overall assessment that the RV park works. We are in an industrial marina area and we snagged a waterfront site. Driving into New Orleans is maybe 15 minutes of an easy drive so we can come and go without much hassle. AND, they have a fenced dog area for Teddy to run!

Highlights included a kid-oriented tour/history lesson with Jill of Quartour Kids, two half days at the WWII Museum, a gospel/jazz Mass and a bike tour for K and D. A and I enjoyed sampling beignets, too.

From here, we are off to Austin, TX for ten days, with an overnight stop along the way.

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Just an overnight stop on our way to Pensacola. This is the place with such dramatically disparate reviews that we just had to go see what’s up, figuring that we are not the kind of people to bring out the crazy in others so we should be safe.

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Seeing temperatures in the 30’s in Pensacola forced a retreat to the Naples area for nine days  to wait out the cold before heading west. Our timing is such that we will be able to meet up with my mom and her cousin during their annual Florida trip to this area. That more than makes up for our spot at a 55+ “resort” (used VERY loosely). I’m not really complaining because they were nice enough to let us stay and we had no other options in the area, but it’s pretty much a trailer park. After a few days though, we are in the swing of things and there is a beautiful community park just across the main road so we just take the kids and dog there to run around. Lot of places in the area for day trips, too. AND, did I mention temps in the 70’s all week?

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I somehow came across Fort DeSoto when I was researching swim with manatee options and managed to snag a four night stay after our time at Disney. At the time, our plan was to head north from here to Crystal River and do the manatee thing and then head west along the southern route. But, no one but me was really that into the manatee thing so we came here for no reason other than it was a “get” park that we were lucky to find space in and there was a dog beach area for Teddy to swim. Turns out, I loved the St.Petersburg area and we had a nice time exploring.

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The Disney campground at Fort Wilderness was one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve been to. I was surprised by how spacious the sites were and how it really did feel “wooded.” Beautiful tiled showers, too! From here, we were able to take a little ferry ride right to the Magic Kingdom entrance and all other Disney stuff was only a short drive away.

Lucky it was nice there because we were hosting our first RV guest! Our good friend Monica came to stay with us for the week.

View of the dog park from the back of our site.

View of the dog park from the back of our site.

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We have six nights here in Sarasota at a big party place! Old people zooming in golf carts, packs of 8 year old boys on bikes, French-speaking teenage girls in bikinis, big-belly sunburned dudes with no shirts on…It’s quite a scene. Mostly this is a regrouping stop to prep for our next six months and get everything organized in the RV before we go to Disney and host our good friend Monica for a week. Costco, Trader Joes, dog bath, etc.

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My search for alligators took us to the Everglades for the certainty of sightings. Our short weekend stay was to cover some of the Christmas – New Year’s time when a lot of places are booked and/or very expensive. We survived with no internet or phone service, no grocery stores nearby, an alligator in the lake and rumors of poisonous snakes. Campground was in a 1/3 mile circle around a small lake and the kids rode their bikes endlessly, earning them the designation, “Speed Chasers.”

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Florida seems to have lots of city-owned campgrounds within bigger community parks. This park reminds me a lot of Mission Bay Park, with lots of picnic/party areas and paved paths around lakes (instead of the Bay). I don’t know if that’s kind of neat or kind of like we are living in a park as if we are homeless. It’s really pretty here, though.

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We were able to fill in a gap in our schedule with four nights at a great city park campground – Bill Frederick in Orlando. More info on the campground is in a blog post. We are about four miles from Universal Studios, and I’ll be taking the kids there probably Sunday and Monday. Kind of a practice for Disney in January. My kids have ZERO IDEA of what it means to have to wait in line because I would only take them places when they were not crowded.

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Rocket launch tomorrow! Our campground supposedly has a prime viewing area, but D and I are going on the Kennedy Space Center tour at 5:00 AM for a closer vantage point. Campground itself is nice and tropical and right on the water. What water, I don’t know – I’ll have to look at a map and see where the heck we are.

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Just a quick one night stop near the Florida border. Super friendly KOA.

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After almost a month in North Carolina, we had to get back on track with a longish driving day to get down to my brother’s house in Summerville, SC. Almost immediately, there was a different feel to South Carolina than North Carolina and definitely more humid and beachy as we headed east.

We had to go a bit out of our way to fill up with propane, right next to Butcher Boys Hog and Deer Processing. It didn’t take Teddy long to find the big dumpster with who-knows-what kind of  smelly stuff. Dude from the propane place comes over to ask if I am “with” Butcher Boys.  Not sure why? Do I look like a Butcher Girl?

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After a little tree trimming, we settled in just fine at my brother’s.

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So, now we are here until December 2nd. My mom and other brother are flying in from NY on Thanksgiving for the first time we’ve all been in the same place at the same time in quite a few years. When my brother is done with his night shift schedule on Friday, we’ll have more time to explore. For now, we are working on cleaning out the RV, doing laundry, trying to catch up on homeschool and enjoying having a full kitchen and also a house with real showers! We are becoming very easy to please.

Here's A humoring me with a pic next to the Piggly Wiggly pig.

Here’s A humoring me with a pic next to the Piggly Wiggly pig. (I don’t know why I can’t rotate this picture – sorry.)

 

From here, we head to Florida where we will spend probably more $$ than the entire rest of the trip combined.

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Our campground outside of Winston Salem is a “14 day only” campground to discourage long term stays. Once it was clear that we were not taking the chance of falling back into the Pit of Despair that was the Greensboro campground, we needed to get out of Winston for the weekend so we could use the rest of our 14 days to be here for the remaining school open houses.

So, we headed down to Charlotte, about 1.5 hours away from Winston. We have some good friends from San Diego who moved to Charlotte about a year and a half ago so we were all looking forward to reconnecting. Their son went to school with A since at least kindergarten, maybe even preschool, and K and I were excited for some adult conversation and to see how they are enjoying the change in coasts. A good time was had by all!

What was most awesome about our campsite? We had our own trash can!

What was most awesome about our campsite? We had our own trash can!

We stayed at a nature preserve that turned out to be very nice after an initial concern that only desperate drifters would be camping here during a November weekend with lows of 25 degrees. But, it was actually a beautiful area around a lake with hiking trails and scenic outlooks. Our only problem was FREEZING while trying to conserve propane before we could fill up the next day.

Practicing with the camera timer for our Christmas picture.

Practicing with the camera timer for our Christmas picture.

But, really, the outtakes are much more fun:

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While we were in the area, we went to Mass at Belmont Abbey for a beautiful service. Attending Mass at different churches around the country has been one of the most interesting aspects of the trip for K and I.

We are back to the Winston Salem area on Monday, November 17th for three more school visits and a day of house shopping with the Winston Salem real estate agent (to get a feel for the market and for neighborhoods) and then off to Summerville, SC on Friday, Nov 21st for about ten days of “camping” in my brother’s driveway.

 

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The view from our campsite

The view from our campsite

Whew! It’s much prettier here. The campground is part of a much larger community park with miles of biking trails, a twice-weekly farmer’s market, a big dog park and lots of open grass area. We saw a baby deer right here in the campground this evening, too. We went from wondering what to do about the man seemingly lurking in the bathroom at the other campground to having rotating 24 hour senior citizen hosts in charge of patrolling the grounds in their golf carts.

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Greensboro, NC
November 52014

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Happily, K and I still like Greensboro as a final destination despite our campground that was literally on the side of an interstate. A made a bunch of friends and packed up with a few other boys around his age but a few days were really cold – in the 30’s – and it all started to feel less like an endless vacation and more like a slide into homelessness. Even though everyone was very nice there, I was happy to move on.

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Finally, I have our current location updated! These listings were getting too far behind to even want to tackle them – like writing one Christmas letter after another. Going forward, I’ll at least just put where we are.

For now, though, we are camping right by the beach, with wild ponies walking through the campsites. How cool is that?!

We’ll be on Assateague Island until Friday morning and then we’ll head to Colonial Willamsburg till 10/27 and, after that, we are off to check out Greensboro and Winston Salem to “finalize” that we do, in fact, want to move there at the end of the trip.

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Cherry Hill Park was planned as one of our “splurge” stops because it’s more than our target camping rate but they make it so easy to get into DC and there are two fenced dog areas and another big open area and they practically hold your hand the whole way through all your travel plans that I knew we had to go there. We were originally going to wait until May/June to go to DC but it looked to be getting too cold to get the most out of New England and the weather was holding here so we made time for a five night stop (Oct 16-21).

K took the kids to DC two days on the Metro and we all did a night bus tour (they even pick up at our campground!) and we went to Mass at the very-impressive Basilica at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University but, really, my favorite part was meeting up with my cousin and his wife for lunch and cupcakes and the chance to reconnect after a lot of years. So many of our stops along the way have been highlights because of friends and family we have been able to spend time with.

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But, I’ll include some touristy pictures anyway:

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And one picture of A that sums up how the world is his playground:

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Trying to get within reasonable striking distance of major cities is a big pain in an RV. Here (Oct 13-16), we stayed on the Jersey side of Philly and it was pretty reasonable to drive into the city.  Really, though, we were there for the cheesesteaks and the pretzels and, luckily, there are good cheesesteaks (and cheese fries!) to be found everywhere – even in the little town where we stayed.

I haven’t uploaded the pictures, yet, and if I stop now to do that, I will never get caught up on these listings!

The campground was very nice, although Ted did pick up a couple more ticks and we finally learned how to use our tick removal tool more effectively. I got to have my turn taking the kids into the city and we had fun wandering around the Independence Hall area – had the place almost to ourselves here in late October. Because my outings usually center around eating, we immediately got a hot pretzel from a street vendor (only $.50!) and later had an awesome cheesesteak (and bacon cheese fries) at Sonny’s nearby. Fun day!

Our next excursion was to take everyone to see my alma mater, Villanova University. It was a rainy day so the security guard took pity on us and let us park on campus. No classes in session this week so we were free to wander all around. Some things were the same; some were entirely different.  But again, since it is about the food, we quickly went to have lunch at a restaurant I used to work at in college, Gullifties. This is the home of the strawberry cream pie I have dreamed about for 25+ years and have been trying to duplicate. Bad news – the pie just came off the menu as strawberries went out of season. Good news – the pastry chef is the same man as when I used to work there in the 80’s and he was nice enough to come out and chat and give me some pie tips AND the manager is also someone from back in the day who I remember fondly so it was a nice welcome and a delicious lunch. To top it all off, across the street is the SAME  cookie shop that was there all those years ago with a cookie made with Kalua and white chocolate chips so we had to get some to go.

On a different level of appeal, the narrow alley that led to my old apartment behind the pizza shop is still disgusting – to the point where K did not believe me that I ever lived there.

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Back to Cabela’s for a night on the way to Philly. Took Ted to a dog park in town to kill some time before parking at Cabela’s. He glommed onto a white Husky girl until he made too much of a pest of himself and we decided to go. Bought some fudge in Cabela’s, got some pretty good pizza in town and called it a night.

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On our way out from our friends’ house, we needed a stop at Camping World for a look at a leaking/weird-sounding water pump and some other minor issues. What’s nice about Camping World is that dogs are welcome in the stores and in the service waiting rooms so it was sort of “okay” to wait without a LOT of hassle. Weird, though, to be out of our “house” and not know how long it was going to take or what was wrong. (We can’t say the work was done that great so don’t read this as an endorsement of Camping World – we still have some outstanding issues to resolve with them.)

The happy part of all this is that our route put us in striking distance of St Anselm College, where we were able to spend the morning with a monk friend – trying out the cafeteria, getting a grand tour of school and abbey, etc. Our campground was very pleasant, too, and we ended up adding an extra day to wait out the relatively busy last-hurrah of Columbus Day Weekend camping before heading down towards Philadelphia.

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Even though we did not stay overnight, I have a separate listing for Dog Mountain because it was such a wonderful day trip from our stay in New Hampshire. One hundred and fifty acres of private land that allows all dogs off leash all the time. There are hiking trails and ponds to swim in and a beautiful art gallery and shop displaying the works of Stephen Huneck, who owned this land and built the famous Dog Chapel on the site. Got some super cute stuff at the gift shop for our new house and had a terrific time there and at lunch in the nearby St. Johnsbury town.

Teddy hopped right in the pond and took himself for a swim around. This is the first time he's gone out for a recreational swim vs. retrieving a toy or chasing another dog.

Teddy hopped right in the pond and took himself for a swim around. This is the first time he’s gone out for a recreational swim vs. retrieving a toy or chasing another dog.

Close up of the happy hiker.

Close up of the happy hiker.

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New Hampshire
October 222014

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This is what we woke up to every morning  when we “camped” at our dear friends’ farm in New Hampshire. With the RV pulled into a side yard and a long extension cord, we were set up for two weeks of being neighbors. These are friends I’ve missed every day since they moved away from San Diego about seven years ago. D and their son grew up from babies together and always reconnect like no time has passed. Two weeks went by in a flash as we pretty much just hung out and enjoyed living in the country. When we get to Greensboro to take a look around, I think we will go with an eye towards a little more space than what you’d get being right in town – all of us wer bit with a little bit of the farming bug (but not too much!). However, D did learn how to make an apple pie:
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Looking ahead to weather forecasts turning colder, we decided to squeeze in three quick nights near Boston, in case we ran out of time in New England. The kids have been watching the Liberty’s Kids series, with lots of info about Boston so it was a good time to go take at least a quick look. This particular campground sounded so appealing with info on public transportation into Boston and a welcoming dog park that it was a no-brainer for us. Kids did the Freedom Trail with K while I had a terrific visit with a dog training colleague in Cambridge and hunted down a freezer full of raw dog food for Teddy in Nashua. We build raging campfires and enjoyed our stay here.

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When were we here? Such a pain doing catch-up listings! This was on our trip from picking up the RV in PA at our friends’ house and heading towards Boston so probably September 22. There is pretty much nowhere to stay on that route if you are not going to make it in a straight shot.  Word online was that the rest stop in Danbury was nice and allowed overnight RV’s. Sure enough, it was like a giant park and really pretty to romp around with Teddy, but too freaky for me to think of being there at night, isolated and dark – all set up for psycho truckers to prey upon us. So, second possibility was a Walmart in Waterbury, CT. K asked the lady at the welcome center and she thought it was not a shady area so off we went. When we got there, however, it did seem a little shifty and the store manager wasn’t exactly encouraging about staying overnight when I called to confirm that it was allowed at that location, “Well, I can’t tell you ‘yes’ and I can’t tell you ‘no’ – you would have to stay at your own risk. But, I’ve seen plenty of people sleeping in their cars so it will probably be okay.” Hmm, urban area Walmart “camping” is not the same vibe and we were the only RV in sight. So, K found us a plan “C” – a Cabela’s another 45 minutes along our route. This was our first time driving the RV and tow car after dark but it worked out okay and the Cabela’s turned out to have really nice walking areas in the neighborhood.

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Staten Island, NY
October 162014

We made it to Grandma’s house! All summer, we talked about, “Can’t wait to see Grandma!” and we arrived in early September, just after Labor Day weekend – still pretty close to our original plans despite a number of detours along the way. It was really nice for me to have my mom for me and not have to always be THE MOM. I realize that I am a lot like my mom and that’s a pretty great thing to be. 🙂

Tea time is the best!

Tea time is the best!

I was too busy eating to take pics of all the yummy NY food we ate. Sometimes, I feel like this whole trip is about me eating! Seems like we practically lived at a delicious Italian deli near my mom’s house – roast beef and turkey heroes, meatball heroes, meat lasagna, homemade sauce…mmm.

We had all these grand plans for how much we were going to explore in NYC and how we were going to cram a whole bunch of homeschool now that we had library access (and wifi!) but we really mostly enjoyed being with my mom and getting spoiled so we just let the kids read books and get immersed in the Liberty’s Kids DVD set my sister-in-law bought for them. (This was a GREAT foundation for understanding what they were seeing later in Boston and Philadelphia so I guess we did alright calling it homeschool.)

K and the kids went on an overnight trip to Cooperstown – oddly, no one came back wowed but I think they were glad they went. I used to always want to go there when I was a kid but I guess I didn’t miss that much, especially now that I’m not so into baseball anymore.

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We took lots of walks on Staten Island with Teddy – early morning death marches for everyone!

Trips into the city were just a few so we have lots left to do on future visits. D is pretty at home in the city, like I am. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum was very well done and a good visit for everyone in their own way. For some reason, I can’t find any of the pictures from NYC visits, except this one of A on the bus:

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II’d have to say the best NYC outing was with me and the kids going to explore and managing to find a “secret” magic shop D had read about in a book. It was in a nondescript building, with no signage out front and up an elevator to the 6th floor and down a narrow hallway. Luckily, the doorman took one look at us and said, “Magic shop?” and told us where to go. The big treat was how kind and encouraging the magic guys were to D. We must have sat around there for about 40 minutes while they pondered which books were the right next level for him, pulling examples off the shelf and arguing amongst themselves – demonstrated a bunch of tricks, too. I found lots of parallels to dog training in how they talked about their craft and what it took to hone what is really an art form.

Toys R Us was a bust – much to A’s disappointment. NY Public Library 42nd Street was beautiful to walk through and we enjoyed our NY pizza in a typical stand-up-and-eat place on the street:
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Practicing some tricks on Uncle Matt:
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Liberty Science Center in my old ‘hood, Jersey City, was interesting for D and I – he got to check out the Rubik’s Cube exhibit and we both did this terrifying walk up on girders:
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AAnd then, before we knew it, almost three weeks had gone by and it was time to hit the road again (Sept 22ish). From NY, it’s off to Boston and New Hampshire. But first, we need a pic of Teddy! Here he is with A playing Hide ‘n Seek. You can guess where A might be…

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And a “groupie” pic just for fun:

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Forks Township, Pa
October 162014

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On our way to New York (early September), we planned a stop with my good friend from high school, Mary Ellen, and her family. Over the years, we’ve gotten together with our kids each time I came out to visit my mom so it only takes the kids a few minutes to feel like they’ve all known each other forever.

Teddy was THRILLED to get to run in their yard after a longish stretch of not-good dog areas and wanted so much to play with Charlie that he couldn’t contain himself. We will be endlessly grateful to our friends for babysitting our RV for almost three weeks so we could get into Staten Island without worry about what to do with the giant RV – saved us a lot of one-fingered NY salutes, too, if we tried to take it over the bridge.

I can’t believe we didn’t take more picture! All I have is a quick shot from an ill-fated trip to the roller skating rink. “It’ll be easy,” I said. “You’ll love flying around the rink with loud music and flashing lights. What’s not to like?” I said. Clearly I forgot about the falling part. Both my kids came out looking like someone took to their knees with a tire rod. But still, they stayed the whole time and kept going back for another round.

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A relatively short drive today to a KOA so we’d get there early enough to do laundry and let the kids go in the pool and have the opportunity for real showers and dump the tanks after two nights of street camping. Tomorrow is a long drive to stay with another old friend for a night and then on to NYC for almost three weeks at my mom’s house. I think knowing we are close to getting out of the RV is making everyone less patient with life on the road – that, plus too many one night stops means we are spending a lot of time driving and just piling stuff out of the way to get going each day. We did do a little bit of homeschool today so yay us!

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Because I had to wait around in Indy until 2:30 to pick up an order of raw dog food for Teddy, we knew we’d be getting to the Columbus area too late to bother with a campground. K likes the Cabelas scene more than Walmart so we went out of our way a bit to stay in their parking lot, especially after wondering if there were going to be bullets flying in Des Moines. In Columbus, we were back in White Castle territory!! And, true to form, the White Castle had a bit of a crazy person vibe so we had to get it all to go. Best part in Columbus was meeting up with a dog trainer friend from San Diego and getting to go out for some girl time.

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A little detour here to visit an old friend and her family near Indianapolis. Nice chance for the kids to all run amok with each other and for the adults to enjoy beverages of their choice and catch up. On the way, we squeezed in a couple of hours in Springfield, IL at the Lincoln Museum so we did not continue to be completely boring and uneducational in the things we are doing. Hopefully, the kids learned some homeschooly stuff by walking around the museum while I walked Teddy around the soup kitchen area of Springfield. We are still trying to keep things moving to get to NY soon.

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Just a one night stop to get closer to Indianapolis. Kind of a weird place in the middle of the woods but the people that ran it were nice enough and nothing bad happened so we can say it was a good $21 spent. Another big thunderstorm.

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Another quick Walmart stay on our way to visit a friend in Indianapolis. This one was in a bit of a shady area with a couple of guys yelling and cursing at each other but we were up and out with no issues.

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K’s hometown! We were originally waiting until May to come back for a longer visit, but when I kept striking out on places to stay anywhere near Chicago, we did a last minute switch of plans and got to Fremont in a regular day’s drive from Mitchell, SD, scoring same day reservations for two nights at a state park campground by a beautiful lake. State parks have become our #1 choice for places to stay. Happily, there was a restaurant on site AND our campsite was right at a small swimming beach area where Teddy could do some retrieving (we’ve had a long string on on-leash only options). Huge thunderstorm had me googling at 4:25 AM: “RVs hit by lightning” but we survived alright and the roof didn’t leak this time. K found his old barber and he and A got haircuts so three generations of his family have now been shorn by the same barber. On last minute notice, we were also able to meet with K’s family in Omaha for a nice visit and I was able to track down an outlet mall and a Trader Joe’s on our way out of Nebraska.

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Now that we are trying to make tracks to get to NY and New England for enough nice weather time, we planned a longer drive day and a free overnight at Cabela’s (since we’d be getting into town too late to actually do anything at a campground with amenities). A got some really greasy Dominos (is there any other kind?) as a late birthday dinner and I paraded Teddy around the parking lot for all the hunting guys to admire. However, no one asked me, “That dog hunt?” We thought we were going to stick around and check out the Corn Palace but ran out of time when we came to the late night decision to head south to K’s hometown in Nebraska instead of continue through Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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When I was able to get the last campsite on short notice, we booked for three nights, extending our time in the West a bit more.   From here, we were close enough to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and also right on a pretty lake. The big hit at Custer was that the kids were allowed to gather firewood from the forest so the fire-building was especially robust. Nice dog walking around the lake and in the forest meadows and all kinds of different colorful rocks all over the place. If we knew anything about geology, we would have been even more fascinated. At Custer was where we finally met a friendly retired RV person. Other than our first night in Ventura, we have been around keep-to-yourself-and-don’t-think-of-stepping-on-“my”-grass people. This time, K made a chatty friend and we even traded DVDs like how I thought it would be all neighborly.

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Another one night stop. This time, we needed full hookups so we could empty our “bad” tanks and fill up with clean water before heading to Custer State Park in South Dakota where we will have only electrical hookups for three days. With our continued good luck, this KOA is really nice and very welcoming to kids and dogs. Choosing a campground via online information can be tricky!

K and I have enjoyed our two days in Wyoming. For some reason, people seem friendlier here (the guy at the grocery store even loaded my car for me!) and the landscape has varied wildly – even over a drive of just a couple of hours.

Like everywhere I don’t have time to explore, Buffalo seems like a particularly nice town and I would have enjoyed an extra day to explore. But, NY and New England are calling us and we have to make tracks! (Plus, $50/night is a budget buster!)

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Another Walmart night! Just one night in Cody because we are making tracks to get closer to Mt. Rushmore and make up for the extra time we spent at Yellowstone. I think we are getting the hang of the Walmart nights by looking for things we can do where we can park the RV throughout the day and then just pull in for the night at Walmart.

The Buffalo Bill Cody Western Museum has to be the most interesting place we’ve been to yet. We could definitely have spent a lot more time there. Cody Rodeo was a bit hokey but lowkey enough that I wasn’t TOO freaked out  about what the animals had to do. In fact, it got so cold and it was raining so hard that the animals definitely got the better of the cowboys and cowgirls. Not many calves got roped! As always, I have a bunch of fun pictures but the blog posts don’t seem to be happening — too many steps involved in going through pictures, uploading them, etc. in between grocery shopping, making dinner, walking the dog, etc.

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This was a last minute change of plans to get some more National Park time in. We were staying a bit too far away from Glacier National Park to make the most of it, especially after several days of a horrible allergic reaction to something that limited my ability to do stuff. So, this time, I booked a place that is four blocks from the West Yellowstone entrance so we could do easy day trips and/or just enjoy the National Forest area that literally surrounded the campground. (National Parks – no dogs on trails; National Forests – dogs are allowed everywhere, often even without leashes.)

Happily, this was another awesome campground – best showers yet and a game room that our kids would have spent the whole three days in if we let them. I loved being able to walk into town. The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center was right nearby and really well done. Lots of fun stuff to blog about when I get more time.

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Butte was our halfway point stopover on our way to Yellowstone, partly because they have a Walmart that allows free overnight RV parking. That definitely helps our average per night camping costs and makes for an easy night where we don’t need to hook up or do anything other than grab groceries and go to bed. Butte probably needs its own blog post because there were a number of weird things happening in that one short night…

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We have six nights here to take in Glacier National Park and the State Fair and a bunch of stuff that sounds fun to do in Kalispell. We were originally going to stay near the east entrance to Glacier at (you guessed it!) another KOA but it was really expensive and I happened up on a review that said something about bringing enough food b/c stores are far away and another that mentioned that Kalispell was the “touristy” side. So, I figured Kalispell was more our speed since we are pretty touristy. There were some mixed reviews about our campground and I was worried six nights here might have been a miscalculation, but so far, it’s really nice.  And, given that I am actually updating things on this blog, you know that they have better wifi than we’ve had lately! We are happy to settle in for a little while. Moving every couple of days is hard because we are not that good yet at packing up efficiently and leaving on time.

The drive from Spokane to Kalispell was beautiful, with such different topography than we’ve seen so far. I definitely feel like I am somewhere “new” now.

Update: This was an awesome place to stay: Rocky Mountain “Hi” Campground. Super kid and dog friendly with a giant laundry room. Best part was a running stream with a swimming hole portion where Teddy was welcome to swim, too. Nice shady campsite with plenty of room for a campfire and lots of room for kids to bike around.

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Spokane was our midway stop on our way to Montana. Going to Cabelas was going to be the big attraction for D to check out some survival stuff and get a wood carving knife. We got in late our first day and it was hot the second day and did I mention how LOUD THE TRAINS ARE AT NIGHT?? I saw mention of that in online reviews but thought, “How bad can it be?” Well, it was bad to have train whistles and rumblings pretty much every hour through the night. Add in guitar-playing singer guy nearby and we didn’t get much sleep. Teddy found a girlfriend though – a young German Shepherd. I don’t think she liked him near as much as he liked her but her owner was okay with Teddy making his advances and she deigned to play with him while he said, “Yes, ma’am” and tried to limit himself to just licking her ears and following her all around the off-leash area. We didn’t get to see really anything of Spokane before it was time to go.

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My kids are pretty into KOA campgrounds because that’s what we started with and because they got a taste of freedom roaming the campground at Crescent City. KOAs are usually more out of our budget but conveniently located and a good fit for kids and dogs. Our kids made some friends from Australia and England and it was nice to have an offleash dog area, small though it was. We spent just two days here because Seattle is hard to get around in traffic and you can’t really stay close enough with an RV to make it easy. We arranged a surprise early birthday trip for A to see the Mariners play his beloved Braves and I got to connect with a colleague who left San Diego for the Seattle area a couple of years ago. (And, yay, yes that meant dinner out with just me to worry about!) We didn’t really explore much of the Seattle area, other than going to Pike Place Market with all the other tourists.

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I had high hopes for Sequim, thinking it was going to be a bigger town because they had a Costco. Plus it was fun to say the name “Skwim” as if we were in the know. We spent the first night doing the free overnight parking thing at Walmart, which allowed us to acquire many more snacks. I thought there would be more people doing the same but it was just us and a couple of other RVs.  The next two days we spent at an RV Park that was clearly geared towards retired people with WAY fancier motorhomes that lived for quiet (shhh!) and lavender. I counted 21 separate purple things decorating the women’s bathroom. Everyone was nice but I bet they were happy see us go with our big dog and our kids riding bikes up and down the rows. I’ll write a separate post about the Olympic Game Farm where you drive through and you can feed the animals from your car as they stick their heads in. Otherwise, Sequim was kind of a bust for me.

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A woman we met as our neighbor on Sauvie Island told me about Cape Flattery being the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States so we decided we needed to go there, having already been to the southwesternmost point. The place we were hoping to stay didn’t answer their phone or return messages so we thought we’d drive there and see if they had any spots available. No luck! They directed us to another place but we made a wrong turn and ended up at a deserted RV park that looked like a good setting for a family slaughter. However, we were traveling with a full black tank that needed to be dumped and we were too tired and hungry to keep looking around so we stayed there. Eventually another family showed up and told us later that they stayed because we seemed normal enough. Cape Flattery was a treacherous hike with a big dog over narrow, slippery bridges but we were rewarded with a terrific view.

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We stayed two nights just outside of the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula area of Washington – happy to have an inexpensive campground pretty much all to ourselves before a bunch of tent people swooped in and then packed up and left practically before we started thinking about breakfast. Rainforest was pretty interesting but we very much enjoyed Ruby Beach with its spooky fog and interesting driftwood and Teddy’s chance to swim in the ocean with sort of big waves.

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Another lucky last minute reservation! Fort Stevens was awesome! It is a large state park with lots of camping spots and a huge stretch of beach that is all off leash for dogs. Kids rode their bikes all over the place. We were bummed to have to leave after only two nights.

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Even though we’ve already spent two weeks in Oregon, I felt like we were missing out by not touring the Oregon Coast, especially because of its reputed dog-friendliness, so we backtracked to Newport, Oregon after getting a last minute opening for four nights at the Port of Newport RV Park. We were pretty much right on the bay. It was a little bit of a weird place because no one was very friendly. They all just wanted to be in their own spots and would barely even say hi so we decided to wave at everyone just to spite them. I did get some fresh Dungeness Crab since Newport is “The Dungeness Crab Capital of the World.”

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We are back in the Portland area renting a house for five days. Early on, I figured we might need a break from the RV to regroup and I hoped we could get closer to Portland proper with a vacation rental than a campground. We are closer than we were on Sauvie Island, but still a little “out there.” But, the house owners were very accommodating about the dog and there is a big fenced yard and they arranged with a neighbor to provide RV parking so we have no complaints. I think we would have done OK staying in the RV without the need to escape to a house but it’s still a nice break. Kids are doing a wilderness stealth/archery camp for the week and I am look forward to Teddy seeing our old vet from San Diego (who now has a practice in Portland and is awesome: Keith Weingardt – Animal Healing Arts of Portland) and making a plan for his treatments going forward.

Where are we going from here? Still undetermined. We are entering the unplanned portion of the trip and that might be good or bad so stay tuned!

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We just spent a fabulous weekend with friends at their beautiful new cabin in the woods at the base of Mt. Hood. We were particularly excited because everyone got to have their own friend – my friend’s sons are a little older but the same grades as my boys and they have a 16 month old dog for Teddy to romp with. This is a friend I worked for back in my NYC Price Waterhouse days – she knew me when I was 23 years old! – and here we are all the way across the country with similar families. Kids got along great and we are looking forward to seeing them all one more time while we are in Portland next week. Living in the woods was incredibly beautiful each day and Teddy ran and played in the creek and scrambled over rocks and bushes – the exact thing he was never supposed to be able to do with his tumor and knee issues – but he managed very well (a little limping the second day but a quick recovery). It was nice to see him as a country dog romping in the woods with a friend.

Country dog!

Country dog!

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Sauvie Island is an island not too far north of Portland. For those from San Diego, picture a giant Fiesta Island except instead of weeds and dirt, there are beautiful farms inside. I wasn’t sure what to expect from online reviews for the place we stayed and I was a little nervous because the woman took my reservation several weeks prior but since it is cash only, I had no confirmation in hand. All was well, though, and we had a beautiful spot right on the Columbia River and very nice neighbors. $30 night – what a deal! Other than being just a little farther from downtown Portland than I realized, it was a perfect spot and my favorite so far. Teddy got to swim in the river every day with no limping! We extended our stay so we had six nights in total.

Giant container ships passed by each day

Giant container ships passed by each day

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I had a stop planned in Ashland, Oregon right from the start to catch a show in their famous summer Shakespeare Festival. Nice for us, one of the non-Shakespeare shows was a production of A Wrinkle in Time – a story I enjoyed as a kid that was also on A’s 5th grade summer reading list. A and I crammed some reading in the days prior and got to about the halfway point so he at least knew who the characters were and got the gist of the story.

Problem was, I couldn’t find a good place to stay with the RV – finding surprises like “clothing optional” pool at a place that seemed okay at first look. At the time, I was hoping we’d be able to leave Teddy home alone in the RV so I was thrilled to come across a private horse farm that allowed us to stay overnight with electrical hookups. Unfortunately, we just never had enough time to practice and Teddy wasn’t ready so K had to stay home with him. Place was beautiful, though, and the show was excellent and very true to the book – inspiring A to finish reading the book on his own.

 

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Really pretty area and an early favorite for the kids. It was nice to have three days in a row in the same place and be somewhere new to K and I. We didn’t get a chance to tour the touristy Redwoods areas or drive through a tree or fail to circle a tree by holding hands but we did get to start to feel like we were settling into the RV routine and starting to enjoy it. The park was very beautiful with dark, wooded paths and a playground and areas for kids to ride bikes on their own and a nice fenced area for Teddy to romp. This is another area we’d like to go back and explore more.

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We were on our way from San Mateo to Crescent City and needed a stopover. Originally, we were planning on going to an Army Corps of Engineers campground at Lake Mendocino, thinking we needed to keep an eye on our average campground fees and liking the $25 (and that dogs were allowed in some parts of the lake). Luckily, I happened to see a mention of the weather forecast: 106 degrees! Yikes – there was no way we could handle that even if we did have electrical hookups. Last minute change brought us to Fort Bragg, just north up the coast from Mendocino, CA. What a great change! I’ll write a blog post with pics b/c the place originally looked more than a little junkyardy but we got a warm welcome and an immediate key to a fenced in dock area for Teddy to run around and stretch his legs. We would have liked more time to explore here — especially all the restaurants/markets with fresh crab.

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We stayed at the San Mateo Event Center for four nights over 4th of July weekend – chosen for close access to friends in San Mateo and San Francisco. I expected it was going to be a little odd and I was right. K was a little freaked out by the dicey characters and the free-for-all feel of camping in a deserted parking lot, but we warmed up to it. Next stop: Fort Bragg, CA for one night and then onto Crescent City, CA for three nights in the Redwoods.

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This was a late stage substitution for the Santa Cruz berry farm that dropped out of the Harvest Hosts program after we set our schedule around a visit there (needing a stop between Santa Maria and San Mateo). First I thought we could stay at a monastery in Big Sur where shhh everyone would have to be quiet (Yes!) but then chose caution rather than the windy Highway 1 for our first week out. Giving Pinnacles the National Park designation makes it seem worthy of a destination but it was as expected – kind of hot and dusty and a bit desolate. Really pretty in the evening, though, and we saw several deer, a raccoon, a rabbit, some turkeys (?) and a visiting blue bird at the campsite to liven things up. Later, we hope the night sky is as spectacular as billed.

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K’s longtime friends hosted us at their house for a bbq and some streetside camping with house showers and breakfast. Even after just one night on the road, I was happy for a real shower! Kids got to enjoy the indulgent attitude of parents with kids ten years older – where they could seemingly do no wrong so they played Xbox, threw balls around, ran amok and ate yummy food. Poor Teddy, though, got into a scuffle and ended up at the vet to patch up a small gash on his leg.

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For our first night camping, we ended up in a nice place! I tried to choose something easy with a full-service KOA with hookups, shade, level campsites, etc. We meant to be here yesterday so we’d have two days to catch our breath and let it sink in that we are embarking on a year long adventure but our late start meant that we are only here for one night. It’s a pretty place with walking paths, peacocks, a giant “jumping pillow” for the kids and a bunch of other activities we are not going to get to do. We thought we’d head from here to the Reagan Library but we’re cutting the Library out to make up some time and try to get all our junk organized and buy some food.

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Goodbye, San Diego!

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