Saturday, March 31, 2012

Manassas Battlefield

This post has been deleted because it is in our new book entitled Napkin Dreams. It can be found on

Campground Review - North Fork Resort

We stayed at the North Fork Resort in Front Royal, Virginia while we explored the Shenandoah National Park. You need to belong to one of their clubs to stay more than one night, we belong to Passport America.

Staff - 8 - Twenty-four hour gated resort is where you meet most of the staff. They guards were all friendly and helped us with our questions.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Park sits on the Shenandoah River and has several ponds along with lots of trees. Right next to train tracks but we never heard any trains.

Roominess - 5 - Sites are under sized.

Facility Fun - 9 - Lots to do here in warmer months, most of it closed up during our stay. Playgrounds, horse shoes,  tennis court, and basketball court were open. Pool, mini-putt, game room and snack shop were closed.

Facility usefulness - 9 - Free and fast wifi, camp store has a few items, exchange library, laundry, propane for detached tanks, picnic tables at each site.

Bathrooms - 8 - Showers are hot and numerous. Bathrooms were clean.

Cleanliness - 8 - The place needed a little TLC for a resort, but is was clean.

Nearby attractions - 8 - Close to Shenandoah NP and several battle sites. Within striking distance to Washington DC.

Value - 8 - Paid $26 a night for a pull-through graveled site with full-hook-ups including cable. This was with Passport America.
Overall - 8 - OK but sites were pretty small for a resort.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Shenandoah National Park

We are so sorry, but this post has been removed because it is a part of our book Napkin Dreams that details our trip around America!




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kettle Chips and Transformers

On our way up Interstate 81 we made a quick stop at the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory in Mt. Jackson, Virginia. These kettle fried chips are quite tasty, come in some unique flavors and are healthier than the average chip company. They fry the potato slices in a combination of peanut and sunflower seed oil, so if you have a peanut allergy these chips are not for you!

We had read that visitors can watch the chips being made and taste fresh samples. This is true on days when chips are being made, but we were not fortunate to come on a day when the machines were rolling. Call ahead if you want to see the chips being made. Otherwise you can purchase some freshly made chips at the visitor center and they are tasty! We got the sample pack and we all found some flavors we liked. Patsy and I thought the Chesapeake Clam flavored were the best.

The next day we had lunch at the McDonalds in Front Royal, Virginia for our 35th state with a golden arches stop on this trip! Wow. The little guys were excited about the Transformers toy, and we went for a hike in Shenandoah, National Park after to work off the extra calories and energy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Star City

Our visit to the Roanoke Valley has been great, visiting friends and catching up with what has been happening in their lives! So many of the kids that were once young children when we moved here in 2003 are now young men and women! It always warms our hearts when they remember us and give us hugs and even seem excited to see us. This makes all the hard work and panic Sundays looking for volunteers all worthwhile!

We spent time with David and Chase's biological family, including their little sister Ana. We visited with Brendan's family last time in town and we had so many people wanting to see us that we didn't get to see them this trip. We spent evenings with our good friends the Knicks, the Beechers, the Arthurs, the Poes and Pam and Zach O'Neal.

Blake had his two best friends, Camden and Kobe Gibson over to Howard for a day of video games. They are all three looking like young men, but I still remember quite clearly the days when we would have sleepovers and they were all little munchkins running around with plastic swords and batman costumes! Blake and Tanner were also invited to a birthday party for Bryce Knick and had a great time with them.

No trip to Roanoke is complete without a trip to the top of Mill Mountain. Even on a rainy day the view of the city of Roanoke is breathtaking and the huge star is a familiar and sentimental favorite of our family. Plus it is free - which is always a bonus for our family.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Campground Review - Dixie Caverns Campground

Our home base during our time visiting friends in Roanoke, Virginia was the Dixie Caverns Campground. We stayed here back in 2003 when we were in the area looking for homes! Hasn't change much!

Staff - 7 - Staff is present to run the store, give cave tours and check in guests. They were friendly and helpful.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Lots of trees in park, and nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Right next to Interstate 81.

Roominess - 8 - Sites are normal sized.

Facility Fun - 3 - You can pay to go into the caverns. We did this in 2007, so skipped it this time. Other than that there are no fun amenities here.

Facility usefulness - 4 - Free and fast wifi, souvenir shop has a few items, like soda and snacks.

Bathrooms - 5 - Showers are hot and have great pressure. Bathrooms need some updating and some soap and paper towels at the sinks!

Cleanliness - 7 - A little run down.

Nearby attractions - 8 - Close to Christiansburg, Salem and Roanoke. We took these pictures of the beautiful and slightly early spring blooms around the valley (not at the park though).

Value - 8 - Paid $24 a night for a pull-through graveled site with full-hook-ups including cable.
Overall - 6 - Not much to do but the free and fast wifi and cable are nice!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

50 McDonalds - North Carolina

We popped into the small town of Jonestown for our North Carolina McDonalds stop. This particular store had a large playground where our boys got some pent up energy out of their system. They kept calling for their older brother Blake to come and join them in the tubes.

Alas poor Blake is too tall and too old to join his younger siblings in the tubes, unless of course one gets hurt or stuck, which doesn't happen much anymore. I think some days he secretly wishes to be a kid again so he could join the younger ones and imagine being in any number of different worlds up in the tubes. I am pleased to say he still plays some with even the youngest of his brothers and is the official go to guy for all issues pertaining to Legos, video games or Star Wars. I feel like I have an assistant dad on my side now!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Campground Review - Crown International Campground

We stayed for a week at Crown International Campground near Charlotte, North Carolina. The campground is actually located in Fort Mill, South Carolina but is minutes from downtown Charlotte. We were surprised to learn this campground was once part of the PTL Club campus! You can still see some remains of the old buildings including a castle (huh?) and an outdoor amphitheater built to like a castle. Both of these were in ruins.

Nearby is a man-made lake where a pair of swans gracefully swim around amidst the ducks, geese and coots. Patsy and I took a walk around this lake and fed the swans. Date night on the road!  

Staff - 8 - Helpful and pleasant.

Natural surroundings - 6 - Lots of trees in park, but next to a construction project building houses.

Roominess - 7 - Sites are normal sized, drives are pretty tight.

Facility Fun - 3 - Outside of the nearby lake, nothing to do on site.

Facility usefulness - 5 - Free and fast wifi, expensive laundry.

Bathrooms - 8 - Average 

Cleanliness - 8 - Ownership is really trying to get this place into shape and that is evident with landscaping work being done

Nearby attractions - 8 - Close to all Charlotte attractions.

Value - 8 - Paid $31 a night for a pull-through cement pad site with full-hook-ups including cable.
Overall - 6 - Owners are trying to get this place into shape.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wesley Chapel K2Go

Our family had a great time training and meeting new friends at Siler Presbyterian Church, located in Wesley Chapel, North Carolina. Children's Ministry Coordinator Elisabeth Smith was so awesome in making us feel welcome. They fed us well and really displayed the gift of hospitality.

[/caption] The original church building is a wonderful classic structure, a gorgeous place to worship. We enjoyed the Sunday morning sermon and a fried chicken lunch after church. Our young boys loved their time in children's church and keep asking us to go back to "that cool church!"

 We had around thirty children's ministry workers attend this conference and we will always have warm memories of the people who came and interacted with us here!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Discovery Place

Our annual museum membership gave us free entrance to this nifty little museum called Discovery Place in downtown Charlotte. We always enjoy these hands-on museums since we have lots of tactile learners in our family!

We watched a demonstration on things that glow, otherwise known as luminescence. Most of the boys got to take part in some sort of volunteer help with this show (see video for Tanner and the water that glows!). Chase even got to take a close-up look at a glowing emperor scorpion.

We played with bbs, laid on a bed of nails, diverted water, watched a rock eating fish, touched some underwater animals, watched a dorky documentary on dolphins in 3D and took a turn at family tug-of-war! We had a great afternoon of exploration and Discovery at Discovery place!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

50 McDonalds - South Carolina

March 12th is David and Chase's Gotcha Day in our family. Gotcha Day is our way of celebrating the day they were adopted (Brendan's is June 9th). To help celebrate the day we stopped at our South Carolina McDonalds for one of our boys' favorite lunches. Our stop was in Orangeburg, South Carolina. This particular restaurant had great parking for Howard!

Our celebration also included shakes. Brendan and I went a little green for the day - Shamrock Shake green that is! Minty deliciousness!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Charleston, SC and Oak Plantation Campground Review

We stayed an entire week in Charleston and we were able to get downtown for a walk through the open market and a lunch at Bubba Gumps! This is the only repeat we had from our trip here a few years ago. The open market is so cool with lots of interesting things for sale. We did not purchase anything since we spent plenty on lunch at Bubba Gumps. We had fun answering Sponge Bob and Forrest Gump trivia here. Oh yeah the food was great too!!

We stayed at the Oak Plantation Campground during our stay in Charleston.

Staff - 8 - Basic friendliness.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Surrounded by trees and smaller lakes, but close to town.

Roominess - 9 - very big sites!!

Facility Fun - 7 - Pool (open in season), small playground, horseshoes, free fishing, plenty of room to ride bikes.

Facility usefulness - 9 - Free decent speed wifi, laundry, propane, fenced -in dog run, exchange library, camp store.

Bathrooms - 8 - Average 

Cleanliness - 8 - lawn crews were out daily keeping it in shape.

Nearby attractions - 9 - Close to beaches, Charleston and Mount Pleasant sites.

Value - 7 - Paid $40 a night for a pull-through cement pad site with full-hook-ups.
Overall - 8 - Not bad for Charleston area in terms of price. Clean and big park with an average atmosphere.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gullah days at Charles Pinckney NHS

The Charles Pinckney Historical Site in Mt. Pleasant is currently hosting a Saturday series on the Gullah culture that is a part of the history of the African American community in the coastal area of the southeastern United States.

Our family stopped to learn and appreciate this unique culture. We learned how this culture has a unique way of speaking and there is even a New Testament translated into the Gullah dialect when we visited Wycliffe Translators in Orlando. During our visit to Charles Pinckney we learned further how Christianity was fully embraced by this culture when they were brought over as slaves, and how their faith helped shape their culture and gave them the resolve to walk through the dark days of slavery and later segregation.

A male choir from a local church sang some songs for the crowd gathered at the site and we also heard from a local artisan who makes sweetgrass baskets. These amazing baskets are weaved from local grasses and pine needles and have been a hallmark of the local culture for over three hundred years. All over Mt. Pleasant and Charleston you can see sweetgrass baskets for sale at roadside stands and at the Charleston outdoor market.

Also on display was a cast-net maker and a toy and quilt maker who displayed and talked to visitors about their craft. We also took the time to learn a little about Charles Pinckney, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first governor of South Carolina. His home was pretty modest, we were expecting a huge, sprawling mansion. I guess back then all the politicians weren't mega-millionaires.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fort Moultrie


This post has been deleted because it is in our new book entitled Napkin Dreams. It can be found on

Fort Sumter

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