Since we returned from our 5 week road trip, I've wanted to go camping almost every weekend. In some ways this isn't surprising, as I've always liked to camp. But now that we have better systems in place - a container full of plates, towels, and silverware; all of our sleeping bags in one set location; tents in an easily accessible corner of the garage - camping seems EASIER. In just a few minutes, we can throw most of what we need in the car and go. And if we forget something? Well, we usually only camp for one night anyways.
Though, honestly, now that all three kids can pack themselves all weekend trips are so much easier.
Anyways, once we decide to camp, the big question is always - where to go?
A few years ago, when we floated down the Shenandoah River (posted here), we passed by numerous people camping on the river. So for Dan's birthday this year, I used my google skills to try and find the best of the riverfront camping options.
And eventually I found River Run Campground. On the downside, the sites are primitive (no water or hook-ups and only port-a-potties for bathrooms) and somewhat close together - they are basically big rectangles with the small side facing the river, so the sites are large in that you have a ton of space to park and camp, but you are still close to your neighbors.
On the upside, the riverfront sites were clean, the views were GORGEOUS, and each site comes with a picnic table and firepit. Further, the proprieters sell floating tubes for $10 and they will drop off firewood at your campsite for an additional fee. The port-a-potties were clean, but not sparkling, if you know what I mean.
All in all, River Run Campground was a great place to spend a night. The kids had a blast in the river (all except for F, who remains somewhat appalled that we camped without flushing toilets nearby), though the bank might be somewhat steep for preschool-age kids or younger. Click here for more info.
We even have a camping table cloth, that's when you know we're becoming serious campers (or so I'd like to believe).
I tried to "fancy-up" our dinner by pre-making hobo snacks to cook over the campfire (Italian sausage, cut up potatoes, and red peppers) and they were SO GOOD!!
The non-river front campsites were all unoccupied, so the kids had a huge field to run in and tons of hay bales to climb.
For T, the highlight of the trip was sleeping side-by-side with his best friend, Coco the dog.
For the final multi-day stop of our road trip, we met up with my mom and her friend, Jan, in St. Louis. Why St. Louis? I've wanted to visit City Museum for a few years now, but the drive was always a little too far and the plane tickets a little too expensive. Luckily, the beauty of an almost-cross-country road trip is you can plan your own route.
DAY 30 - Drive to Saint Louis, MO from Kansas City, KS (265 miles)
DAY 31 - St. Louis Art Museum and Laumeier Sculpture Park
We spent the morning of our first full day in St. Louis at the art museum, which had a fantastic exhibit on American Folk Art. By this point in the trip, my kids were over (as in WAY OVER) museums of any sort, so we could only stay so long. But the girls still enjoyed exploring the modern art and impressionism (T, on the other hand, kept asking to leave).
Some much needed downtime.
In the evening, we headed over to to Lamer Sculpture Park, which was crazy cool. It's so big that we didn't have a chance to see everything before closing. I'd love to go back.
DAY 32 - St. Louis - City Museum
And, finally, we made it to City Museum, which is a crazy place full of tunnels, slides, and pockets of art everywhere you look. At first, we were all somewhat overwhelmed by the crowds and small spaces (hello claustrophobia), but eventually we found quieter spots throughout the museum and realized that this might be the coolest place on earth. And the space itself is HUGE, we spent 6 hours there and didn't manage to see everything.
The giant ball pit was a huge hit.
But for T nothing beat driving the bus.
I loved the views!
Yes, that's my daughter climbing the wall.
And chairs that spin.
And rope swings.
And a juggler!
And staircases with eyeballs.
DAY 33 - St. Louis to Columbus, OH (420 miles)
After St. Louis, we drove to Columbus to stay with Dan's relatives for the night. They greeted us with dogs, pizza, and the Olympics. My kids were in heaven.
DAY 34 - Columbus, OH to HOME!!! (420 miles)
In the morning of our last day, we stopped to visit the children's great grandmother in her nursing home. We didn't stay long, but it was great to see her!
And then we drove. And drove. Up until day 34 I'd become a big convert of the road trip vacation - continually looking at googlemaps to figure out new routes by which we could see America. But two 420 mile day rows in the car as the only driver wore me down. And then we arrived home to rush hour on the beltway. After that, it took a few weeks before I'd drive more than 10 miles in the car.
All that being said, it was still an amazing vacation. In retrospect, I think the variety is what made us so happy - from camping to museums, rafting to seeing friends - we never became too bored or homesick because there was always something new and different on the horizon.
Now I just have to get through the craziness that is September, which seems much harder than traveling the country with three wonderful kids.