I’ve been meaning to write something meaningful about our adventures north for the summer of 2017, but I’ve been struggling to summarize. LOL! I feel like there is so much to tell and no one is going to be as excited/nerded out as I am. I feel like I say over and over how blessed we are to live this life, and how much I wish we had taken the plunge sooner. I also feel like I say how privileged I feel to be able to teach my children at “home” and while we travel. I honestly feel like I say those things so often that people probably think I’m bragging. Then, I have to remind myself that though people often dream about traveling the country fulltime, very few (especially at our age with children) actually could or would get rid of most of their possessions and move into an RV to do what we do. People tell me all the time that they live vicariously through us. They enjoy following our adventures on Instagram and Facebook, and oftentimes even learn something. I love that! If that is you, this blog is for you! Enjoy! It’s packed with information and links to more information. 🙂
We planned our trip north differently this year than we did last year. This year, we tried to find state or national parks to camp that aren’t far from the interstates. Last year, we got ourselves into some tight places because we veered a little too far off the beaten path. Also, this year, we are staying about a week at each stop. That has been awesome! We don’t feel rushed. We can get a good work and school week in and explore on the weekends. It has made all the difference! We might not be seeing as many places, but we really get a feel for the places we do see. I guess you could say that after almost two years in, we are finding our groove! That doesn’t mean we don’t get it wrong sometimes like when our mechanical door lock broke and locked us out with all of our keys inside. Thank goodness for little boys who leave their window open sometimes! Tyler saved the day! 🙂 It was pretty funny by this point.
We love to learn! Our fridge is covered in magnets of places we’ve been. I love to stand in front of it sometimes and just recall each place we’ve been and things we learned there. I had fabulous teachers in school. I’m sure I must have “learned” many of these historical things at some point to pass a test or get a good grade, but there is something to be said about standing in a place or next to something with historical value. My kids are getting a very different education than I did, and we are learning right along with them!
There is something to be said for learning about a people group, about their history and culture. I am so glad my children get to learn about things this way. We camped at Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma and visited the nearby Chickasaw Cultural Center. We learned so much about the Chickasaw Nation. It was fascinating! I had heard of the Trail of Tears, but I knew very little about what that historical event actually entailed. I had never put myself in the shoes of these Native people who had been forced from their homelands to an unfamiliar “Indian Territory”. These were people – mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, babies. It didn’t matter. They were “Indians”, and according to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, they had to give up their lands within existing state borders in exchange for unsettled lands west of the Mississippi. Being there, we were able to immerse ourselves into their shoes. It is a really interesting way to learn history. In my opinion, you end up with a very well-rounded view. You learn the history from the hearts of the people whom it affected. I also learned that I share my maiden name, Keel, with the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. That got my attention. When I mentioned that to the lady at the Visitor Center, she was certain there was probably a relation. Now I have something else to research. I also loved what the sign pictured below says. “We train our children to preserve our Nation; they will know and understand what has happened before. They will understand who they are.” Perfect! That’s what I hope for my children, too.
There is also something to be said for stepping back into history. The next place we visited was the Wichita, Kansas area. We camped at El Dorado State Park. Our favorite thing in this area was the Old Cowtown Museum. As you walk out on to Cowtown’s dirt roads, you realize you’ve entered a world off the Chisholm Trail that has been frozen in time. We are fairly familiar with the Chisholm Trail, being from Texas, but there is always more to learn. This living museum tells the story of Wichita’s transformation from a frontier settlement to a cattle town to an agricultural and manufacturing area. It was an unexpected surprise to be able to tour each of the buildings and homes , many of which had been moved from various places in Kansas to preserve them. Twenty-seven of the fifty-four structures are originals. The others are fabulously recreated. We loved touring the houses and appreciated the simplicity of the time period. Many people would say that we are so lucky to have all we have today. I wonder sometimes. Part of me thinks a simpler time would be nice. We also enjoyed the Blacksmith Shop. He was working on making a chisel when we went in. Also, we can’t forget the “gunfight” in the streets in front of the Saloon. Really cool place!
There is something to be said for experiencing a taste of a time gone by. Next stop was near Kansas City, Missouri. We camped at Watkin’s Mill State Park. I was especially excited about this stop because the kids had been studying about the Pioneer Trails. Nearby, Independence, Missouri, was a popular “jumping off point” for several of the Pioneer Trails including the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. All of these trails played a crucial role in Westward Expansion of the United States. We visited the National Frontier Trails Museum to learn more, then took a little ride around the area on a covered wagon tour. Afterwards, we asked the kids what they would have done if they had the choice of staying where they were or heading west on one of the trails. Can you guess what they chose? We love an adventure! One of the exhibits that caught my eye was the “Trail Trash”. Boy can we relate! Some things just don’t make the cut! I’m sure they started out with good intentions, but soon realized some things just aren’t necessary for the journey.
We also enjoyed touring the Watkin’s Woolen Mill. The tour guide was word-perfect and very informative about how the mill operated. The doors of the mill were closed in 1898 after almost 40 years of business. When the doors were closed, everything was trapped in time. It is the only woolen mill in the United States with all of its original machinery intact. We learned all about the Watkins’ family, and also got to tour their home. It was a great experience!
There is something to be said about standing in someone’s home. A home is a reflection of a person. Next stop was near Springfield, Illinois. We camped at Sangchris Lake State Park. Springfield, Illinois is Abraham Lincoln‘s hometown. It is where he and Mary raised their boys, buried one of them, bought their first home, started his political career, and it’s also his final resting place. While there, we visited the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. We love learning about Abraham Lincoln. To stand in his home was almost surreal. Our imaginations ran wild. If walls could talk…
Also, while in the Springfield area, we also visited the Lincoln Tomb, where Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary, and three of their boys are buried. Of course, the kids had to rub the nose of the statue out front. Superstition says it brings good luck. We aren’t very superstitious, but it’s fun nonetheless. Thousands of people do it each year, keeping the nose from tarnishing and forming the brown patina that covers the rest of the head.
We also enjoyed the Lincoln Museum located next to the Presidential Library. The experiential museum followed Lincoln from his boyhood home in Hodgenville, KY all the way to the White House, and eventually his assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. The exhibits make you feel like you are right there with them. It was engaging, at times emotional, and educational.
This week, we are camping at Charlestown State Park, Indiana in a lovely full-hookup site. We are set to arrive at our summer destination in Ohio this coming Monday. The kids are finishing up their last bits of school for the year. We look forward to many more learning opportunities to come, but the best part of it is…we get to do all of this together!
There is something to be said about living and learning, as a family, on the road, in an RV for almost two years now! It’s AWESOME!