Author Archives: boggessjournal

Our nation’s capital city

The Smithsonian! The National Archives! The US Capitol! Monuments! The International Spy Museum! The Library of Congress! Friends! Family! It’s a wonder we ever got on the road again but we were lucky enough to have almost two full weeks in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area. My parents lived in Ellicott City, Maryland for almost 20 years, so we thought we had seen most of the sights, but D.C. has an amazing ability to remain fresh and interesting. Even museums we visited just a few years ago were seen in a new light, especially given our recent trips to Boston and Philadelphia. Independence Hall in Philadelphia had George Washington’s rising sun chair; the National Museum of American History had his military dress uniform. The Henry Ford in Detroit had Abraham Lincoln’s rocking chair from Ford’s Theater; the Smithsonian had his familiar top hat. And it was a moving moment to step into the rotunda in the National Archives and see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, documents we had been following since Boston.

We toured the US Capitol building (something we had never done) and even got passes from Senator Merkley of Oregon to watch the Senate in session. It was very cool to see our government in action (inaction?). Even better was getting a “behind the scenes” look at the setting of so many presidential inaugurations and funerals, impeachments and filibusters.

One of our favorite museums in D.C. is the International Spy Museum, a monument to skilled (and not so skilled!) clandestine agents from around the world. They have devices and stories from ancient history through the Cold War, including a letter from General George Washington authorizing establishment of the first American spy network during the Revolutionary War. As if that wasn’t enough – 50 Years of Bond Villains on special exhibit! It was awesome!

Of course, the real draw to the D.C. area, and one our favorite things about this road trip, was visiting with family and friends. Some memorable moments – dinner at the Ellicott City Brewing Company with Darla and Mark; campfire and football with the Mulvaneys; a delicious dinner and a great evening with the McGowan family (friends from Breitenstein! felt like a big warm hug); Indian food with Killian, Melissa, and Caden (hottest vindaloo ever!) that led immediately to ice cream next door. We got to spend a couple of great days with Matt and Anja and Max, our godson; Dan and Bryn, our old shipmates, even joined us there for poker night – so much fun!

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Despite what seems like Mother Nature’s best effort to keep us away from Philadelphia, first with Hurricane Sandy and then with a foot of snow, we managed to sneak there anyway. With the bus parked safely in Maryland, we took a day trip up to continue our American history tour in the nation’s first capital city.

We started our day in Independence Hall where we were able to stand in the Assembly Room that held the Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and some of the most famous debates among the Founding Fathers. It was unexpectedly moving to see the very chair that George Washington sat in while presiding over the meetings. The National Park Service rangers were really sharp and full of great information about the site. In an adjoining building we saw an early printed version of the Declaration of Independence.

Across the street we stood in a short, cold line for entrance to the Liberty Bell exhibit. I thought, “It’s a cracked bell. Let’s get in and see it so we can head over to the Mint and watch them make money!” Wrong. The hall was very simple but well laid out. By the time you actually get to the Liberty Bell, you’ve seen the progression from simple steeple accessory to iconic symbol of freedom. Like the Mona Lisa, however, you’d think it was bigger.

Time for lunch! Now, we’ve had amazing food all over the country – fresh fish in the Boundary Waters, organic local everything in Portland, chile in New Mexico, clam chowder in New England. What is Philadelphia famous for? The Cheesesteak. Last time Ayrril and I were here we tried the famous versions at Pat’s and Geno’s. Awful. This time we did a little research and found Campo’s Deli, just a short walk from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Awesome! Philadelphia, consider yourself redeemed.

On to the Mint! The US Mint tour showed how our coins are designed and produced, but it wasn’t as exciting as I made it sound earlier. Cool, informative, and well done but no pictures allowed, no hands on stations, and nothing was really in production while we were there. On the other hand, we saw a banner advertising a special exhibit across the street at the Constitution Center about the 18th Amendment and we were sold.

The exhibit was called The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and it was excellent! From the temperance movement to Prohibition, bootleggers to speakeasies, rum runners to repeal, we got to see how it all fell into place and then fell apart. The only thing missing was a drink at the end!

Before we went to Philly we introduced the boys to the best boxing movie of all time. So of course we ended our day by running up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky. It was cold and getting dark but we saw close to a dozen runners hit the steps in the 10 minutes or so that we were there. Thanks, Rocky! You make us all want to run through the streets and punch beef.

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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Ferris was right! We hit Chicago right after a freezing rain that left everything covered in a thin coat of glossy ice and parked our bus for a couple of days right on Lake Michigan at the Great Lakes Naval Station. What a view but boy, was it cold!

The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the western hemisphere and one that I remember visiting as a kid. Lots of hands on experiments and great visuals, including a 3 story steam tornado and the only German U-boat on display in North America. After seeing our own heartbeats projected on the wall, out-relaxing each other at Mindball, and dogfighting in their flight simulator, we closed the museum down, as usual. It’s a great museum, and well worth the visit, but Science North is still our favorite!

Further north on Lakeshore Drive, right near the heart of the city, is the Art Institute of Chicago, a combination school and art museum with an extensive collection. We saw everything from the Old Masters to Jackson Pollock, including Wood’s American Gothic, six (!) of Monet’s haystacks, Chagall’s America Windows, and of course, Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. It’s a fun and diverse collection that includes known treasures and some decidedly odd modern art. A big plywood box deserves its own room? Seriously? Still, we loved the creativity on display: paintings, sculptures, furniture, photographs, videos and more!

We were excited to add the Sears Tower to our list of Really High Places We’ve Been Around the World. Alas, it was not to be, not because it’s closed or gone or anything, but just because they’ve changed the name! The Willis Tower just doesn’t have the same ring to it so we just kept calling it by its old name. It was awesome! We arrived just as the sun was setting and all of Chicago was lighting up. We leaned out over the city Ferris Bueller style and did handstands with a view straight to the street over a hundred floors down.

We had deep dish Chicago pizza and walked along Lake Michigan one last time. We wanted to stay but had to go. Moving on down the road – places to go, people to see!

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We had a week of fun, reunions, and bus frustration in Michigan as we got some electrical issues resolved and met up with old friends. As much as we love the U.P., we love some people and places in Troll-land, too. And did we mention that Michigan is The Great Beer State? Well, it is. πŸ™‚

Our first stop was Detroit. While our bus was in the shop we took the opportunity to visit the Henry Ford Museum. A museum that celebrates transportation and invention, it features fantastic collections of cars, trains, flying machines and other innovations of the industrial revolution. We loved the Driving America exhibit: celebrating road trips since 1865! We saw the Kennedy limousine, the Lincoln chair, and the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. We helped to assemble a real Model-T Ford, toured the Dymaxion house, and saw the traveling Lego Architecture exhibit that included models of Fallingwater, the Empire State Building, and the Sears Tower. We had to drag Bridger away – I think he’s having withdrawals. No Legos on the bus!

We met with old friends in Canton, then turned toward Battle Creek and Coldwater to see one of my childhood homes and more old friends. From there, off to Berrien Springs to visit MORE friends!

Friends visited on the way:
Sarah and Lindsay – friends from our first time in Germany, we hadn’t seen each other in 17 years!
Claralyn – her beautiful farm, her great lasagna, and lots of laughs. Carson told us later, “I love how Claralyn is always laughing!”
Brad – my first friend, now a law enforcement dog handler and instructor in Battle Creek
Deb and Corey and the kids – 13 horses, a giant dog, and a warm, welcoming kitchen with homemade donuts. What’s not to love? We had such a great time.
Jeff (Wayman) and Twyla – with 14 guitars and three Xboxes this was a fun house! We met Pepper and Dash and reminisced about the old days (all the way back to high school!)

We spent two great days with Jeff and Twyla. Ayrril and I have known Jeff since high school and he and I were suite mates our first year of college at Andrews. They introduced us to pupusas, gave us a tour of the university radio station where Jeff is program director, and invited us to the local volunteer firefighter pancake breakfast. It was a great time and we loved having a chance for our boys to get to know them.

All of our wonderful friends make us love Michigan all the more. We were sad to leave but we’re looking forward to coming back!

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Happy New Year!

So, after a couple of months cooling our heels we are happy to be brushing off the cobwebs and getting our road legs back under us. That means getting back into the rhythm of life on the road, including posting tales of our adventures for all of you. We’ve got a lot planned in the coming months and we’ll be adding more pictures, more places, more often!

After a crazy fun Christmas with the extended Boggess family in Ohio, we decided to ring in the New Year in Pittsburgh. Every year they block off the downtown Cultural District for a parade, food carts, street performers, live music and more. We counted down to midnight with a fun crowd on Penn Avenue, watched a spectacular fireworks show launched from the rooftops of the surrounding buildings, then danced in the street to a great brass band. Hello, 2013!!

Ayrril has wanted to see Fallingwater since she was 12 years old so on New Year’s Day we drove to Mill Run, Pennsylvania to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. It’s an amazing place- open, warm and inviting. Even the boys were impressed. It wasn’t quite as cozy as our bus but it was still pretty nice.

Now we’re back in Michigan visiting friends and seeing some of my old stomping grounds. You might be thinking, “Michigan? In January? Are you crazy?” We’ve asked ourselves the same questions but couldn’t drag ourselves away just yet. It’s cold but snow covered and sunny right now so we’re loving it. We’re headed to Chicago next but eventually we’ll turn the bus toward warmer pastures – after Chicago it’s Philly, DC, and then Key West bound!

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New York state of mind

Here’s the Boggess Notes version of November 2012, plus or minus a couple of weeks: we parked the bus in Carrollton, Ohio at my parents’ house (aka The Lake House); I traveled to Seattle and Portland for work; Ayrril, Carson, and Bridger traveled to Las Vegas, Kingman, Flagstaff, Silver City, Las Cruces, and Phoenix for the Thanksgiving break; we all met back in Ohio in mid-December.

Before settling in for what proved to be a white Christmas in Ohio, we decided to hit New York City for some holiday cheer! The original plan had been to hit NYC on the way down from Boston, possibly en route to Philadelphia, but we have always wanted to be here during the holiday season. It did not disappoint!

We flew out of Pittsburgh on Bridger’s birthday, took a cab from the airport to our hotel, and immediately hit the town. Every street had Christmas lights, the store displays on 5th Avenue were amazing, and Times Square was lit up like, well, like Times Square! It was beautiful. On Monday we gave the Birthday Boy control for a day and he took full advantage. He and Carson played for a couple of hours in an arcade on Times Square, we crossed the street to watch the new movie Wreck-It Ralph, ate burgers and fries at Five Guys, and lost track of time playing the new WiiU in Nintendo World at Rockefeller Center. Dinner was a square and a slice near the hotel. It was Bridger’s dream day, and not so bad for the rest of us, either.

Over the next few days we walked in Central Park, went to the top of the Empire State Building, visited the World Trade Center Memorial, rode the ferry out past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, watched people ice skating under the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, went back to Nintendo World for another round of family games, and explored the American Museum of Natural History. Somewhere in there Ayrril and I even found time to hit a pub or two.

Hurricane Sandy did quite a number on New Jersey and New York, including Ellis Island, which is now closed for repairs until at least October 2013! The Statue of Liberty is also closed to visitors due to storm damage but the ferry took us right by her island as a brief rainstorm blew in off the Atlantic. Looking back toward Manhattan, we could see Freedom Tower at 1 World Trade Center rising above the skyline. It’s due to be completed in 2013 with a final height of 1776 feet.

The World Trade Center Memorial site was beautiful and powerful. Two square pools sit where the Twin Towers once stood, with water cascading continually into their centers from beneath granite retaining walls inscribed with 2983 names. It was a moving reminder of how precious and fragile our lives are and how quickly everything can change.

On Thursday we took advantage of a beautiful clear morning to view the city from the Empire State Building observation platform. The elevator was amazingly fast at moving us from street level to the 86th floor, but even more amazing was the lack of any line to get in – no waiting! Then we hopped the subway back to Central Park for one last pass through the Christmas market near Columbia Circle, a final walk in the park, and then headed back to the hotel to check out. Rather than calling us a taxi for the ride to JKF, the concierge offered use of the hotel car service. We stepped out to the sidewalk to discover that the hotel “car” was a white stretch limousine. Score! We piled in and ended our New York City holiday in style.

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Vegas, baby!

I can’t believe it’s been a month since we last posted! We’ve been off the road visiting family and catching up on schoolwork while Brian’s been doing a little work in Portland so we haven’t had much to post. We did something fun last week though! Carson turned 15 on November 29th and we surprised him with a trip to Vegas for his birthday! He didn’t suspect a thing – he got a birthday card in the mail at my sister’s house on the 28th with a mocked up “prize notification” for an all expense paid trip to fabulous Las Vegas. We threw toothbrushes in a bag and were on the road within an hour. My sister Ammie came along with her invaluable Vegas experience and her camera! The boys watched Ocean’s Eleven on the way just to set the mood.

We arrived in the evening and the Strip was ablaze with neon awesomeness! We checked into Treasure Island, admired the view from our room, then hit the streets. Carson’s still too young to gamble but we found lots to see and do. We saw the volcano erupt at the Mirage, we wandered through the Forum in Caesar’s Palace, we saw the fountain show at the Bellagio and did a lot of people watching in between. At New York-New York Casino we found a great arcade and a late night dinner; then it was a quick taxi ride to the Stratosphere Tower. At midnight we were looking over Vegas from 1000 feet above the city. Carson and Ammie rode the Insanity which actually was a little bit insane β€” the riders hang out over the strip about 900 feet up and then spin at 40 mph! It was a great night. We wound things up around 2 a.m. when we made it back to Treasure Island and beds. The next morning we had a birthday breakfast at Denny’s, then a little souvenir shopping, and a couple of great photo opportunities with Las Vegas street signs. We had so much fun!

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Freedom Trail

The Boston Tea Party, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Liberty Tree, Sam Adams, the Sons of Liberty – is there any city more distinctly American than Boston? Well, maybe, but the American Revolution started here and the history of both the city and country are well preserved at quite a few sites in and around the city. We drove down from Montreal, crossed through Vermont and New Hampshire, and celebrated our first night back in America with pizza. We parked the bus in a beautiful spot right next to the woods at the outer edge of the Hanscom Air Force Base family camp, with hiking trails right out the door and no one else within 100 yards. We woke up every morning to birds and chattering squirrels in the trees outside our windows.

The weather was gorgeous – sunny and warm! It was a welcome change from the cold rain of the last few weeks since leaving Marquette. Over the next few days we hit the highlights, knowing that we simply couldn’t see it all. In downtown Boston we followed the Freedom Trail from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall, past the cemetery where John Hancock and Sam Adams are buried, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old State House, all with a tour guide dressed as a British Army officer of the period. He showed flashes of wit and enthusiasm but we all wished that he had taken a few more swigs from his flask before starting the tour. We did a quick tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides” for the way cannonballs would bounce harmlessly off her solid oak hull. From there we climbed to the Bunker Hill Monument, site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, where the American commanding officer famously instructed the Minutemen, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

On Saturday we drove down to the whaling museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, with a quick stop outside Providence, Rhode Island for a delicious breakfast at Honey Dew Donuts. The whaling museum was amazing! At the height of the whaling industry, over half of all whaling ships in the world sailed out of the New Bedford and Fairhaven harbor. Herman Melville sailed from this port in 1841. Like many whalemen at the time he attended services in the Seaman’s Bethel, which he then immortalized as The Whalemen’s Chapel in Moby Dick. His pew is still marked and the walls of the chapel are still covered with memorial plaques to sailors lost at sea. When the New Bedford Whaling Museum was built, it blocked the Bethel chapel’s beautiful view of the harbor and sea, an affront that has never been forgiven – that was in 1908.

From New Bedford we drove over to Cape Cod for some beach time. We can’t be that close to the ocean without skipping stones over the waves, running barefoot in the surf, and listening to waves crashing on the sand. Carson and Sam had their traditional sprint down the beach, we saw a seal bobbing about 20 yards offshore, watching us curiously, and saw the nearly full moon come up over the Atlantic. After a delicious dinner at the Lost Dog Pub (“Come. Sit. Stay.”), we headed home to the bus.

Sunday brought clouds and the beginning of what would turn into steady rain ahead of Hurricane Sandy. We took advantage of the few hours we had left to see the Old North Church (of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame) and Paul Revere’s home. We had just enough time to stop in at Mike’s Pastry for coffee and cannoli! In the afternoon it was Cambridge and Harvard Square. By evening Sandy was bearing down so we unplugged the bus, hooked up the Jeep, said our goodbyes to a couple of new friends, and then it was “On the Road Again!”

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Breaking News… Hurricane Sandy!

We’ve had several messages from friends and family wondering about our location and safety. Thought we’d throw a quick post up to let you all know what we’re doing in the face of the Frankenstorm! We’ve been in Boston, and our plan was to be there for a few more days then go to Philadelphia before visiting Brian’s parents in Ohio for a couple of weeks. But since the bus doesn’t float and we don’t want it to fly, we decided to head for the hills. We’re headed north and then west, which will take us into some snow but out of the wind.

The whole East Coast is bracing for the storm. We’ve passed convoys of utility trucks heading into the coastal areas to be positioned for post-storm clean-up. People here are fueling up generators and stockpiling food and water in expectation of power outages. We have friends and family right in the path and we’re definitely worried for them.

We’re driving along Lake Ontario now and it’s churning. When the storm hits here late tonight they’re expecting 25 ft waves and wind gusts up to 70 mph. By then we should be parked safely at the lake house in Ohio, watching it all on the Weather Channel.

We had a great time in Boston β€” pictures coming soon!

In the meantime, here’s Sandy…

Sandy from space

The projected path…

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Portland to Portland

Miles since Portland, OR: 8548
Miles on the jeep: 6352
States we’ve been in: 17
Bears that have crossed our path: 1
Bare asses that have crossed our path!: 1 (Thanks, Paul!)
Number of books we’ve acquired along the way: too many to count
Number of bookshelves in the bus: not enough
Number of fill-ups: you don’t want to know
Number of new tires: 2
Number of microbreweries visited: 15!
Number of those that were in the U.P.: 8! The Great Beer State!
Guest passengers: 3 πŸ™‚
Number of times we’ve listened to On The Road Again by Willie Nelson: a lot!
Number of songs in our On the Road playlist: 19 β€” suggestions welcome!
Most unexpected thrill: seeing the aurora borealis in Houghton
Number of times Brian’s shaved since July 26: 0!

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