Monday, October 25, 2010

Places to go. Things to see

I can't believe it... I'm having trouble figuring out where to take my kids on a field trip.  When we were in Ohio we were going somewhere at least once a week.  Now that I'm back in Northern Virginia, I can't seem to find something I want to do. 

Maybe it's more accurate to say I can't decide on which of the many available options I think the kids would enjoy the most.  I mean who can pass up the National Air and Space Museum (both of them), National History Museum, the American History Museum, the Lincoln Monument, the Washington Monument, and the many other tourist sights in and around Washington, DC.

I think the biggest issue I'm facing is that I realize that most of the places I want to take them are in Washington, DC, and I REALLY don't want to deal with the traffic.  I gave up my job in the DC suburbs 6 years ago in part because I didn't want to deal with the traffic.

What do to?  I think I will let the kids decide where we are going, and then I will decide when (taking into consideration traffic) and maybe I can get someone else to go with us to make the trip more enjoyable.  Any takers out there?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Mountain Returns

A couple of days ago we had the tires on our car replaced.  The day after we picked up the car, I was pulling up to a stop light and a tire went completely flat.  I limped the car a few yards to get out of the driving lanes.  Luckily we'd just been to the library so the kids flipped through a few books and watched an educational DVD while we waited for a family member to come and rescue me and the kids.

Who knew that almost 2 years after selling our house on a mountain that the mountain would come back to bite us. We took the car back to the mechanic and apparently the gravel roads where we used to live were to blame.  The tire could not properly sit on the rim because of the grit and grime that had worn down the rim of the tire.  Hopefully the trick he tried today will hold up and we will not have any more leaking problems.

All I know is that this is just more proof that getting off the mountain was a good idea.  Strike that... a GREAT idea!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back to Ol' Virgine

Considering this blog is supposed to be tracking my family's travels, I should update you on our most recent trip(s).  Last weekend, we drove from Southwestern Ohio to Northern Virginia.  We did this while pulling a VERY full trailer of stuff.  Under normal circumstances this trip should have taken just over 8 hours.... it took us 12. 

The reason it took so long was two-fold.  The first was that we had a tarp covering the trailer to make sure nothing flew out and also that nothing got in (such as dust or rain).  The second reason it took so long was because our car struggled to make it up the mountains of West Virginia and Maryland.  There were places where the speed limit was 70MPH and we were only going 40 or 45MPH. 

We did have a few things going for us though.  The first was that we left Ohio at 3PM.  That meant that even if the trip would have been 8 hours long, the kids would have slept the second half of the trip (which they did).  The second was that the frequent stops to check and or fix the tarp were also a time to get the kids out of the car to stretch and take potty breaks.

Hubby ended up going back to Ohio by himself to get one more load of our stuff and hit a deer on the way to Ohio.  Luckily the damage was minimal and is very hard to see. All I can say is that I'm glad I was not in the car.  I've hit a deer before and I really don't want to do that again.

Now we are in Virginia trying to figure out our next steps.  The plan right now is to see if we can get an relatively inexpensive RV so that we can take it on a cross-country trip.  If that doesn't work out, who knows exactly what will happen next.  God has always shown the way and we don't expect that will change now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Life is a Zoo

Not really, but I've been to so many as of late that it sometimes feels like it.  You see, I've gone to 6 different zoos in 5 different states over the last 4 months.  As such, I feel like a bit of a connoisseur.  Because of that, I'm going to rank the zoo's I've been to and explain their ranking.

1.  St. Louis, MO

Admission is free but you do need to pay for parking.  There are a few activities you can do at the zoo that cost extra (ride the train, ride the carousel, attend a sea lion show, pet a stingray).  We did pay to do many of the extra things and we don't regret that purchase at all.  We thought the layout of the zoo was well thought out and that the animals had not only ample space, but visitors to the zoo had a pretty good chance of seeing the different animals (even if they were sleeping).  Our only complaint was the cost of the food and drinks.

2.  Des Moines, IA (Blank Park Zoo)

This was the smallest of the zoos we went to.  That meant it didn't have as many animals but they were all laid out in such a way that you could see them without any problems.  They also had numerous shows and meet the keeper opportunities which the kids loved.  We also paid $1 to feed a giraffe a leaf of lettuce (OK we paid $5 and got 6 leaves), and we also paid $1 for each of the kids to feed some parakeets.

3.  Columbus, OH. 

I've heard lots of good things about this zoo because it is where Jack Hannah is based out of.  Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.  Maybe it was because of all the hype.  Don't get me wrong, it's a nice zoo, but the layout for the animal enclosures made it hard to see some of the animals.  They do have numerous meet the keeper opportunities and an animal show that is really cute (with primarily house pets that have been rescued from local shelters).  In addition to having lots of different animals (a plus when it comes to kids) they have a spectacular play area for the kids and a mini-amusement park complete with a coaster, log flume, and swing (the day we were there it was cold and a bit windy so most of the rides were closed).  The price of the foods at the zoo is also rather reasonable for eating out as well.

4.  Cincinnati, OH. 

Technically the Cincinnati Zoo is also a Botanical Garden.  That means the zoo is beautifully landscaped and for the most part well laid out.  It is rather hilly which made pushing around my 6 year old and 4 year old in a double stroller a bit difficult at times (I kept telling myself I was getting a good workout).  I love some of the special themed buildings they have (cats, insects and butterflies, etc).  I also liked how everything was well shaded (very important considering the day we were there it was 90).  Besides the hills, my biggest beef with the Cincy Zoo is the price to park and get in.  I also wished they had at least one area for the kids to just unwind and run around.

5.  Washington, DC. 

This was the first of the zoos I'd been to but it's also one I've been to multiple times because it is my "home" zoo.  The National Zoo is very nice considering it's in the heart of the Nation's Capital.  It is rather hilly in areas (again making pushing a stroller hard).  It was also undergoing LOTS of construction.  A necessity I understand, but it meant that many of the animals we were there to see were taken off display because their habitat was being renovated.  It would have been nice to know in advance just so I could have prepared my kids.

6.  Minnesota Zoo in Minneapolis, MN (Apple Valley). 

They claimed they have the second largest acreage of any zoo in the United States.  If that's the case, they are letting a lot of it go to waste.  They claim it is because they are trying to preserve some of the marsh land in the area.  I have no problem with that, but don't tout to me that you have all this space and disappoint me by having so few animals.  They did have a few kid play areas that were nice (including a water fountain for them to run in).  They also had a really nice aquarium complete with a dolphin.  That said, I would not go back to this zoo.  Instead, I would go to Como Zoo (in nearby St. Paul) which I hear is much nicer and also has a small amusement park.

Now to cover some general information.  If you are planning on doing anything like this I would recommend that you  get a family membership to your local zoo.  The reason is because by doing so you are allowed into that zoo for free for the next year.  My local zoo is the National Zoo.  I figured out that I would need to go to the National Zoo 2 times in order to "make back" my money (your membership is tax deductible by the way).  Not only that, but having a membership to the National Zoo got me discounts at every zoo that I went to.

To ellaborate:  I got into the Des Moines Zoo for free (it normally would have cost us $30 for 3 of us).  Getting into St. Louis is free for everyone, but we were able to do all of the "extra" activities except for petting the stingrays for half price.  We got into all the other zoos for 50% off and we even got 15% off food or gift store purchases in Cincinnati just for showing them my National Zoo membership.

I have gotten back so much more than what I paid for the membership.  Not only have we gotten discounts at other zoos, but we've been able to experience 6 different zoos in 5 different states.  We've seen MANY different animals and have lots of pictures and memories that will last a lifetime.