Friday, July 30, 2021

Camp Pick Up + Biking the Virgina Creeper Trail

We are home from our 2nd road trip of the Summer.  This one took us to Pennsylvania for the boys one week sleep away camp at Woodward.

On the way to the camp we hit DC for one night as a family and then Paloma Ernesto and I explored Hershey and Philadelphia without the boys (while they were at camp). 

The day before pick up we left Philly and stayed the night in Harrisburg, PA, just an hour and a half south of Woodward.   
What a cute little town!   We strolled along the Susquehanna River and oohed and awed over the cute houses and quaint downtown area.

Ernesto found a cute little corner cafe called Alvaro.  We ended up eating here twice. 

While we were sitting outside here eating lunch, my phone rang.  After no word from my babies all week, Mateo called on the 2nd to last day....because they ran out of money LOLOL
It was so sweet to hear his voice on the phone. He was talkative and excited to tell me about everything. 
But $$$$$$$!  They were out of money and still wanted to buy a sweatshirt and Mateo had a flat tire etc etc. 
All food is included for the week but we had given them each $100 (loaded on a "camp card") that they could use at any of the shops for souvenirs and treats and any extra activities.  Even though we didn't talk to them all week, Ernesto and I felt close to them by looking at their purchase history online.  We logged in to their accounts each day and LAUGHED SOOOOO MUCH as we read aloud what they were buying....

Look at this list of goodies!  These guys were living their best life! 

Sourpatch Kids, Skittles, Airheads, go carts, ice cream, milk shakes, Brownies, Soda etc...  haha I know I would've done the same thing as a kid.  And this is just a screenshot of a couple days 😳😳 

It was finally pick up day.  Driving the winding roads to Camp Woodward was peaceful.  
It was nostalgic really.  This is the landscape I grew up in rural Ohio.  Farm land, cornfields, green open spaces.  I took it all in as I knew that in an hour the peace would be gone.

We pulled in to the camp and I got excited to see my babies.  
They were excited to see us too, but not ready to leave.  "Can we stay 2 weeks next year mami?" 

They showed us around and introduced us to their new friend from camp that week.  His name is Dillon and he lives in NYC.  They are already trying to coordinate next year to make sure they go at the same time:)

They had a BLAST!  Talking about it non-stop.  Im so glad they had that week of independence! 
And boy were they independent...
They were able to make their own decisions about food and snacks, managing money and deciding to wear the same clothes over and over.  Seriously, hardly any of the clothes packed were dirty/worn, I don't even thing they showered.  Hygiene is a big responsibility that they just aren't ready for yet. Ha!

We were riding in the car for a while and Marcelo just randomly said "Guess what Mami? I didn't brush my teeth the whole week!"  😱😱😱😭😭😭

We wanted to break up the trip a bit on the way home too.  We  headed south...right down to the southwest corner of Virginia where it meets Tennessee and North Carolina.  
Also, where has Virginia been all of my life? Talk about a gorgeous state!! This was the first time (that I remember) driving through it. It was a gorgeous drive- I was so impressed with the beauty!  I made a mental note that we must explore more in the future.
We stopped in Abingdon VA with one goal. Ride the Virginia Creeper Trail. Funny enough, my friend Virgina told me about the Virginia Creeper Trail.
She went on and on about what a beautiful ride it is and promised me that it was doable for kids because the trail starts atop a mountain and winds through meadows, farmland, pastures, little cute houses...all at a slight decline.  

On the website it says the trail is a "retired railroad bed and is a casual biking experience with gentle grades..."  Needless to say, we wanted to DO IT! 
On the website it says the trail is a "retired railroad bed and is a casual biking experience with gentle grades..."  Needless to say, we wanted to DO IT! 

We arrived in Abingdon around 930p tired from the 7 hour drive from the boys' camp in PA and checked in to the Abington Doubletree. Abingdon is actually where the 34 mile Virginia Creeper Trail ends. (If you are starting at the top of White Top mountain).
 At 9am we drove 15 minutes to Damascus where you can catch the shuttle to White Top.    I just called Creeper Trail Bike Rental & Shuttle to reserve our bikes/shuttle during that car ride.  Ha!  Always a planner!
There are so many places to rent bikes and I think the prices are all similar. For a nice mountain bike rental and shuttle to the top, it cost $35 per person. Luckily we had no problems getting a spot and we were on the 11am shuttle! 

Since we were doing a one day ride and we have kids, we rode just half the trail.  (17 miles from the top down to Damascus, the halfway point) Damascus is a popular town where 7 trails pass through, two of them being the Virginia Creeper and Appalachian Trail.  Needless to say it's a cool little town that attracts a lot of travelers.  

The kids were not that excited about this adventure (as you can see in the above pic) and we DID NOT DARE tell them that the ride was 17 miles.  LOL  
BUT! We all made it and with little to no complaining.  It really was a very easy ride.

About halfway through the ride we came upon Hellbenders Cafe a little restaurant right on the trail.  A lot of bikes were parked out front and we were ready for some food!!
The weather was beautiful too, so we weren't uncomfortably hot!
The trail is a smooth, hard packed surface of dirt and fine gravel....and many wood bridges.

We didn't need to stop and rest, that is how easy this ride is...but we did stop for water or helmet adjustments.  
Or when the kids wanted to explore or climb on the rocks along the river. 

...or when there was a butterfly that was big, blue and friendly. 

Really, we stopped for anything 
We waited in a short line to order and they brought it out quickly. Burgers, hot dogs, corndogs and fries.  Not the healthiest selection but it hit the spot. Also, we were riding 17 miles,  so I would say the activity vs. food choices balanced out.
Again with the rolling green hills and fresh air. 

When the kids saw a little store on the side of the trail, they wanted to stop.  They assume there are treats to be had.  It was such a cute little place equips with all kinds of hiking and biking gear. 

I can't remember but I think we may have grabbed a few drinks.  We really just needed a bandaid for this guy's elbow...our only casualty while on the trail.
No doubt he was daredeviling on the rocks.  He slid and wiped out. Luckily it was nothing that slowed him down.  I am so glad we made this adventure happen. It was a beautiful day.  If you get a chance to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail, I highly recommend it! 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Three in Hershey & Philly

While the boys were living their best life racing around Woodward, Paloma was living it up as an only child.  Hershey Pennsylvania was too close to NOT go.  
What is in Hershey, you ask?  Well, it's like the sign says...Hershey is  CHOCOLATETOWN. It was founded by Milton S. Hershey, a man we learned a lot about in the 2 days we were there.
We started at Hershey Park, which was originally created as leisure grounds for the employees of Hershey's Chocolate Factory 110 years ago.  Coasters, water park, kiddie rides, dinning, it has it all. 

And this lucky girl GOT IT ALL . You want your face painted? Ok.  You want cotton candy? Ok. 
You'd like to ride this 20 times in a row? Ok. 

You want mami and papa to ride with you on the carousel? Ok. 

Although Paloma enjoyed the kiddie rides, we weren't able to go on all of them.  We tried out some of the bigger rides and The Comet coaster was pretty exciting....although a little intimidating going up that first hill. 96 feet up 😬😬 You can see by her face that she was worried. Going up the hill her eyes were closed.  Mine were too, but that was due to the sun. haha

She was the STAR.  All eyes on her, showered with attention... she exuded happiness.  
Ernesto and I vowed that each of our kids need a solo trip. Each needs a time to be the STAR, which can be tough with siblings.
You know we had to hit Hershey's largest candy store.  Paloma sweetly picked out souvenirs for her brothers. 

Hershey was full of food options, but once I discovered Freshido, a poke bowl place, I didn't want to go anywhere else.  We ate here twice and I would have done it again. 

The next morning we explored the Hershey Museum ...

and booked a spot in the Hershey kitchen where we learned how to make our own S'mores chocolate bar.
It was cute.  Can you just seeeeeee the happiness on this little girl's face. 
Hershey was SWEET!  It was fun spoiling our baby girl and she ate up all the undivided attention. 

At lunchtime we grabbed Chipotle to go and were on the road to Philadelphia, a 3 hour drive.  I actually lived in Philly for one year way back when....I had an internship at the Philadelphia International Airport.  It was such a fun year.  There were several other college interns my age and we had a fun job! We walked around all day with our walkie talkies and looking important.  We coordinated translators at int'l arrivals, tested ice levels on the runways, escorted VIPs, worked with secret service when Air Force One flew in....Oh those are great memories. Its also the only year that I ever lived alone in an apartment.  It was a great experience. 

Ok....back to the current year.  Ernesto had never been to Philly and when he mentioned it as an option I was like Meh.  What I didn't remember so clearly, but realised within the first hour of arriving in Philly, is what a BEAUTIFUL, cool, hip, historic city it is.
 We rented a cute little walk-up apartment in Old City.  
Its so walkable and fun just out the door! 

There are historic monuments, statues, buildings everywhere in this city. 
The first afternoon we stayed close to our place and visited the Liberty Bell and surrounding neighborhood.  The buildings are so gorgeous.  We stopped at a cute little market called Sue's and grabbed some food for the apartment. 

Our first full day we walked about 8 miles.  We stopped at every fountain. 

Paloma ran around this downtown water park as long as she wanted while Ernesto and I relaxed and  watched passers by.  People eating on their lunch breaks, moms with kids, outdoor cafes etc.  So nice!
That afternoon we made it to the Museum of Art.  You KNOW we had to run the Rocky stairs.  Come on!

We picked the boys up a couple t-shirts.  They love the Rocky movies. 

Paloma was fine to stay out exploring all day.  Papi gave her a couple rides when she needed breaks.

The next day we started our morning walking Penns Landing, which was only a couple blocks from our apartment. 

We strolled along the water and passed a cool park filled with hammocks and people relaxing, a wall filled with hundreds of locks.  It's called The Hope Fence and is a place where you can "lock in" your love story or a special memory.  They have a website where you enter your story. Add your lock on the fence and throw the keys in the box.

Philly Tacos is a little spot (made out of a shipping container) right on the water.  The outdoor seating area was so cute. 

I forget where I learned about Magic Gardens, but once I knew it was a museum  of mosaic art, it was on the "must see" list.  
Plus it is on South Street which is a must visit area.   It was so cool.  The mosaics were unbelievable. Isaiah Zagar started laying mosaics on the walls of two buildings, which had an empty lot in between them back in the 1960's.  His art got so much attention from the community and despite some obstacles, (you can read the history here) he eventually acquired the land and he was able to turn the crazy mosaic garden into what it is today. 

When you enter the garden, you are given a treasure hunt card.  On it are 9 pictures for you to try and locate with in the mosaics.  We had a lot of fun with this and received a sticker upon completion! 

I was inspired to mosaic something again. (I had a mosaic phase about 20 years ago!)
Ohhhhhh Philly! You are awesome! 


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