November 19, 1863
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Gettysburg was fantastic. I learned so much about the battle. I didn’t realize how close the confederate army was to winning the battle. I knew how bloody it was, but it was staggering to think of the roughly 20,000 dead in such a small place. It must have been horrible beyond horrific.
If if you ever venture here, we’ll mail you the audio tour for you car. It was a perfect way to experience the park and learn. It even engaged the kids.
We had a nice campsite overlooking a little stream. We had our first real fire of the trip, complete with s’mores.
Also, Eisley needed a small repair after I backed her into Melanie’s driveway and bottomed-out the black tank valve. It was a yucky job to reglue the pipe, but took less than 5 minutes and $5 to do.
You don’t walk into the National Gallery of Art and not expect nude statues. I knew the moment above was coming and I had my camera ready. The first statue past security did not disappoint. There was this slow realization creeping across Ben’s face that the female form in front of him was completely nude and anatomically correct. At first, his eyes just got bigger. Then he quick-walked (knowing not to run in a museum by this point) around to her backside. This is where he lost it. He giggled himself silly saying, “It’s a butt!”
Yep, he’s a Kane.
Sara and Maya got lost amid Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, and others. They enjoyed the refined beauty of artistic masters. Ben and I counted butts.
I’m a Kane too, it turns out.
He easily missed half of them, but it’s hard to count while quietly giggling to tears.
We finally drove out of the heat - just in time for our first stop with AC and a pool. But really, we couldn’t have asked for better weather to explore the capital. So far it has been in the upper 70s, a light breeze, and sunny.
We are staying at the beautiful house of my cousin Melanie and her husband Josh. The have two wonderful seventh grade kids, too.
Melanie and family have been the most gracious, kind hosts imaginable. They have fed and housed us, played and chatted, guided and encouraged, and all-around made our time here the best so far on this trip.
On Saturday, they took us around the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, and into the Smithsonian AIr and Space Museum. There was a cultural festival happening on the mall too, so our lunch was authentic Armenian fare. So yummy.
Josh dropped us a short walk from the White House (you can’t get a car anywhere near) and waited with the car since there was no parking. The kids’ pictures are below with the White House. Sara’s pic didn’t turn out, she had her finger over the lens.
Click on any picture above to see a bigger version.
American History Museum
On Sunday, we tested our own skills navigating the city as Melanie and Josh and kids prepared for their week. We did pretty well - didn’t get lost once (thank you Google) and found parking everywhere were needed it.
We started our day at the American History Museum. I wish I had more pictures. The museum tells the story of American History though themes. Our favorite (Ben and mine, anyway) was the transportation section. Starting with early ships through the train, auto and airplane, it was a glimpse into America as it moved.
Another theme was “How did we become US?” It was amazing to me how the questions of immigration have persisted in the much same form (different peoples) throughout most of our history. Racism and Xenophobia are American themes. It was encouraging that most of the people groups who were attacked like Mexican immigrants and Muslims are today are now more or less accepted. (Racism persists, of course, but our American dialogue is not whether or not Irish and Japanese should be allowed in our country.) Bad ideas and bad arguments will keep getting replaced with good ideas good arguments.
African-American History Museum
The African-American history Museum was a powerful experience. It’s so new that we had to get tickets. It is free, but the demand is so high that you need to get time-sensitive ticket. Tickets “sell out” two months in advance. However, every morning at 6:30 they post four additional same-day tickets for each hour of the day. We got the 12:30 slot!
The beginning of the museum funnels you to the basement. It’s crowded and tight. It’s the history of the Middle Passage.
Eventually, the space opens up into the horrors of slavery. It is a heavy experience. Probably the heaviest moment, for us, came in the Jim Crow era exhibit. It was labeled “mature” and Sara went in to see and evaluate. Maya couldn’t accept the idea of being censored, and begged me to allow her to go. I relented.
Inside she she and her mom found images of lynchings, dead black men surrounded by white townsfolk posing for pictures. Posing. Smiling. The stretched necks were awful, gruesome images. The smiling whites were missing a part of their humanity.
Lest you think Montana innocent, further on, Montana was represented in Jim Crow laws.
Along this journey, I realized that my living grandma was 18 at the last reunion of civil war soldiers. This is not so long ago.
If you don’t know what a sharknado is, pause right here. Google it. Can you believe that they made 5 movies already and plan on another? We have been at Huntington Beach State Park, SC for the last three nights and we’ve seen a waterspout (a tornado over the ocean) and a wild shark on the beach. In my book, that qualifies as a Sharknado!
Sure the shark was caught by a fisherman, but that’s missing the very important point that the shark was swimming 100 feet from us just minutes prior to the photo. And, no the waterspout never touched down, but it certainly was impressive. The picture doesn’t do it justice. I’m sticking with sharknado!
Huntington Beach State Park
The beach! We’ve planned and dreamed of the beach for a while. While it has certainly lived up to our hopes, it’s had some struggles too. First, the joys:
As I snapped the picture above, I was a bit misty-eyed. We had rolled in and hurried to the beach after a long drive. Both kids were awestruck. It was their first time seeing the ocean. We laughed and and played until I was worn out and then they played some more in the shallows. It was such a peaceful culmination of years of hard work renovating Eisley. The moments spent underneath laying in snowmelt, or wearing a mask carrying buckets of mouse crap, or just long lonely tedious days came together in my mind watching my kids play. It’s a deep kind of joy to see your work become your kids’ laughter.
We also had great food on this leg of the journey! Our first night we went to a local seafood restaurant whose motto was, “Not fancy, just fresh.” Sara said the motto was a good one for me, too. (Phhhbt!) It was such a great restaurant! The food was amazing and the service was fantastic. Our waitress found out it was our first time in SC and seemed determined that we should taste the best local flavors. She brought us a free cup of “She crab soup” (I think that’s what it was called) because it was the thing she didn’t want anyone to miss. It was amazing. It was my first experience with hush puppies and I was shameless about devouring them.
Ben had a hot dog.
On the third evening, we were able to connect with my Aunt Martha. She recommended another seafood restaurant. It was another completely local place. The food was amazing - I had shrimp and grits - but the conversation was better. I don’t have much contact with people who knew me when I was born. I am so grateful for the conversations I get.
Which leads me to an apology to anyone I’ve missed along the way. I’ve tried to connect, but we’re new at travel and even after driving over 1k miles, 200 extra miles is still a barrier.
Onto the trials: 1) It was so hard to get out of the heat. We forced the kids to drink water all day and it still wasn’t enough. Sleeping was rough and both Sara and Maya had moments where I was concerned for them. We sought ac during those times. 2) Ants!!! For our entire stay we battled little sugar ants. They were incessant. Poor Ben had an ant highway on his bed frame. I made multiple trips buying different poisons at the local grocery store. The never went for our fridge or pantry, they were seemingly randomly everywhere. But it wasn’t random, we hadn’t set up the hideaway bed/table. On the way to SC, a peanut butter jar had fallen and spilled. The kids were so proud to help us set up camp, we didn’t check their work cleaning it up from under the hideaway bed. I went to show the table to my cousin and found ant city. 3) My plumbing. It was a real bummer not being able to use our shower here. ‘Nuff said
The beach was an amazing time for us, but we timed it perfect. I was ready to see it in my rear view mirror right about the time we pulled away, heading for Washington D.C.
Atlanta & Allatoona
When we were in the playground of the King Center, a group of mostly black middle school kids loudly joined us, as middle school kids do. Ben, sitting on a bench eating a string cheese, muttered to himself, “Wow, there are a lot of Americans here.” If you don’t know, he’s growing up in Montana. He’s probably never been the minority skin tone in any group ever before. He processed it well and with a little coaching went out to discover the age of the other young child in the playground - probably a 1st grader like himself.
Anyway, visiting the King Center was an important activity for our family. I was quite moved by it. We sat in Dr. King’s church and listened to his preaching, visited his boyhood home, and toured a museum to his life. He had six principles of nonviolent action that I will need to meditate on for a while. If I lived more according to those principles, my life would be better.
Ben had been talking about this for months. He had planned the rides. I didn’t even know there were guides to Legoland. You know how Tigger bounces in Winnie-the-Poo? You need to imagine a blue-eyed, blond, skinny-bean-of-a-six-year-old bouncing like Tigger.
After I recovered from the $ticker $hock, it was a pretty fun place. We shot Lego monsters on a digital ride, watched a 4D movie and got soaked, and played away the afternoon.
This was our favorite campsite so far.We were right across from the boat dock and at first it seemed like a bummer. But it really turned out to be that someone cleared out a beautiful view of the lake and the sunrise just for us. The bugs stayed away and even though the weather was hot, we stayed relatively cool.
Ugh. We’ve had a couple long driving days with plans for a couple more. Driving days are, by far, the worst part of the trip. However, I am super proud of my kids. They only argue a little and have been stalwart friends.
My nephew, Jack, is learning to drive back in Montana. He’s a really good kid and will be a safe driver. But before we left, I took him for a drive and made him eat a soft serve ice cream cone while driving one handed. The goal wasn’t to be dangerous, teenagers eat and drive all the time. I wanted his first attempt to be with someone ready to grab the wheel. He was a little freaked out, but did a good job and only dripped a little ice cream on his crotch.
well, Jack, I told you it was real world. Here’s me, 8 hours driving, in big city traffic. I’m trying to eat a Chipotle burrito, pull an Airstream, and not spill rice and beans on my lap (I spilled).
Today we went to a world-class zoo. All I can say is WOW! It was free and better than my expectations. We saw all sorts of animals. Maya’s big deal was seeing a cheetah and Ben’s favorite part was the discovery that elephant poo floats. He was grossed out and enthralled.
We did the iconic tourist thing an went to the arch. We fully intended to go up, but it was a 4-hour wait. So we took pictures outside and found a fantastic local brewery to drown our sorrows about not going up.
We finished our afternoon at the science center. We played with all sorts of science an engineering toys. I tried to feed Ben to the animatronic T-Rex, and we went to a planetarium show.
It’s hard to take pics of the “moments” when they seem to be happening. That’s a quick way to kill them. But Ben asking, “ Why is the air sticky here?” And, “Are those (trees, shrubs, and crazy-thick forest) real?” felt like his world getting bigger.
Maya is getting harder to read, but she loved the science center and the big city highways stacked on top of each other. Sara and I have quietly enjoyed seeing the kids realize that the world is bigger than they knew.
Good news, my fix stopped the leak in the shower from Denver. Better news is that we discovered the shower drains just fine when the dump valve is open. Today our campsite has full hookups, so everything works.
Our non-driving evenings are starting to see a routine- kids shower, adults shower, every retreats to a quiet space. Right now the kids are reading in their bunks, Sara is reading in our bed, and I’m blogging by the fire. I think this is us finding that solo time we all need.
i could live in St. Louis. I really like this city. Don’t worry friends, tomorrow we go on!
Well folks, city #1 was a mixed bag. There were excellent successes and some disappointing failures. The Kanes forge ahead tomorrow, St. Louis or bust. Here are our highs and lows:
The Children’s Museum
What an amazing place! There were so many exhibits to play with. Ben’s favorite was The Big Backyard. It was in the style of “Honey I shrunk the kids”, where everything was huge. I marveled at the team of engineers and artists they must have to make a place like that possible. I’m sure this was Ben’s high, maybe Maya’s too. She was feeling a little too old for some things (which was a new parenting experience, yay!), but kept a positive attitude for her brother.
I usually can do plumbing ok, but it’s my own personal hell when it goes wrong. It turns out the guy who put in the tub did everything wrong. Sometimes, as a teacher, Monday Me hates Friday Me. Friday Me typically has a lazy attitude whereas Monday Me is meticulous. It was definitely that Friday guy who did the plumbing under the tub. Consequently, it both leaks AND fails to drain. I think I had a quick fix for the leak (won’t know until tomorrow), but the failure to drain the last 1” of standing water will take major work.
As a result, we needed to take showers at the coin-ops tonight. It feels like a major failure. I think I can fix it fully, but it’ll need to wait until I have time. We’ve got a few beach days planned around the 4th, maybe one of those will work.
Sara’s favorite place was the Denver Art Museum. It was an art museum.
The hardest part
The hardest part is figuring out how this works. How do 4 people who usually lead separate, but intertwined, lives suddenly spend 24/7 with each other? We’re not arguing or fighting (we’ll the kids have a little), but we’re all exhausted. (The heat didn’t help. It was 102 today.) Sara and I are both big on personal space, so we’re trying to be graceful and articulate with each other. We’re about 50-50 on the day.
The best part
Sara is a do-er. She did an amazing job creating a day that was an experience the kids will treasure. On vacation, I’m a sitter. Here’s my favorite moment of the day:
Tomorrow, St. Louis!
Our Own Little Fixer Upper
I can relate to Joanna Gaines here --->>>
Chip and Mark share a few traits:
-love demo day
-a little bit of an ego
-awkward dad jokes
So for this blog entry, we'll pretend it's the last ten minutes of an episode of Fixer Upper. Chip (okay in this case Mark) has finished and it's time to get in there and make it cozy.
Mark has worked countless hours creating our little home away from home to help us better adventure as a family of four. My skills with power tools are lacking at best, so I have been on the sidelines for the most part until this week. My role has been design and decor. So, I bring you the final pieces. Much like Joanna plans, designs, consults, and then pops in at the end to add the finishing touches, I have worked the last few days to take Mark's hard work and make the Airstream a place we can feel comfortable in as we wander together exploring new cities and taking in new views.
About a month ago I placed an Amazon order for plastic drawers, curtains, etc. I took measurements carefully and was thrilled as things trickled in that most of the items worked well. I have two small curtains to return when we get back from our trip. Otherwise, all of my measurements did the trick. We have plastic drawers under the kid's bunks for their clothes, two sections of drawers in the bathroom cabinet, bins for the cupboards to hold food and supplies, etc. Mark built a closet for us. It's a tight fit, but we were able to get enough in for about a week's worth of clothing. We'll do laundry here and there along the way. I really love sandal season, so I may have brought more than what some people (ahem, Mark) believe to be an appropriate amount of shoes for camping (How can you pick?!!). Nonetheless, it all fit!
Last summer we had made the large rectangular cushions for the dinette, which folds out into a bed for Mark and I. This week I had to sew the curved corner cushions. They were a pain. The last time I was decent at sewing was high school Home Ec. Still, I made the corner cushions work. Absolutely any 4-H kid anywhere in America could've done a better job, but we've got cushions and they basically match the others. I ordered a stall size shower curtain that fit perfectly and some simple bedding for the kids. Mark and I will use extra bedding from home since it'll be stashed away during the day anyway. Mark didn't have time to build a pantry, so I found a small piece on Amazon to do the job (let's pretend it was custom made by Clint...) My friend Jill helped put it together because she is a much better direction-reader than I am and because we had wine. Now that everything is loaded up, I feel like we have exactly the right amount of space. No inch is spared, yet it doesn't feel crowded or chaotic. I suppose when four humans are inside that might change. Still, it feels really good.
Take a peek:
We'll have to add pictures of the dinette set up and in use when we have dinner one of these nights soon. Right now, it's down and ready for travel.
We start our journey tomorrow.
The Final Countdown
My back aches. My hands are scratched up. But Eisley is beautiful. It will be the nicest "hive of scum and villainy" (that's a Star Wars reference, for you non-geeks) in this sector of the galaxy. Tonight, I stopped work at 9pm, and am treating myself to a beer and a rest. Eisley is ready for packing full of gear and hitting the road.
Where are the final pictures? Ahh, for those you'll need to tune in on Wednesday for a special guest blogger.
But before I go, here are some pics of the final work. I ran all the water lines, traced several leaks, connected the brake lines, installed the waste valves, ran the gas line, and did a ton of little projects along the way.
Cupboards and Countertops
There's been some dispute about my carpentry skills (looking at you Aunt Kathy!). I want to put a rest to this question. I've really only showed you the cuts that work. But there are sooo many more pieces that were an 1/8" too short and had to be tossed (or used elsewhere) and parts that needed to be cut 5 times to get down to the right size. What I lack in talent I make up for in persistence. Exhibit A:
Scott helped me get all of the cuts right the first time and then lent me use of his router table to make the panels flush. The finished product surpassed my hopes.
I also installed the icebox at the same time as the doors. (We decided to go low-tech and use an honest-to-goodness icebox. An RV fridge costs about $1,100 and Icebox costs about $100. You can buy a lot of ice for $1K. And ice is for sale at every gas station in America.)
Like many items in Eisley, the countertop was a happy accident. We went to the box stores to get black countertops, but really didn't like the laminate. There happened to be a faux-marble piece that Sara liked, but it was the last one and broken on one side. The manager offered about 40% off and I accepted. Because I'm making my own countertop, I figured there would be a good chance I could avoid the broken edges.
Cutting laminate sheet is really easy. All you need to have is a straight edge and lots of razor blades. I probably went through 15 blades because the laminate dulls the blade so fast. Once you have a deep enough score, it just snaps along the line.
It also helps to have a good helper, who, when done building bunkers to shoot at cars, knows when to relax.
I had one seam in the length (the countertop is so long). There were some helpful youtube videos on how to keep the seams tight. The secret is lots of tape. The final countertop looked pretty good.
The worst part of having something looking pretty good is needing to put holes in it for the next step.
But the final result was worth it. Click on any image to make it bigger.
I'm exhausted. It is halfway through June and our giant trip is looming. Despite school being out for the summer, I'm currently working full days teaching summer camps at our local college. I've really enjoyed the camps this year - great kids - and the money is paying for our trip. So no regrets, but after work I come home and work on Eisley most nights until about 10 pm. I'm exhausted, but seeing progress. I hope I'm finished soon!
Paint does wonders. In order to get the doors on the cabinets, I needed to paint the cabinets first. It's easier in that order. So I painted almost everything that will eventually need paint. I will still need final touch-ups and molding around the floor. Molding may not happen this summer.
The kids' bunks are painted on surfaces that will eventually be seen, but not where the mattress will cover it. I need to put some sort of sticky vinyl tiles around the toilet and there's a few cracks to cault on the dinette. There also a few spots to touch up, but that will be a quick job.
My next post should catch you all the way, or nearly all the way, up to today. I had a friend help with the cupboard doors and I installed the countertops. I'm currently working on propane lines and septic valves. After that, fresh water, cleaning and decorations.
I'm not an Airstream Jedi, yet. Airstream Jedi would have sounded presumptuous, like I know what I'm doing. That couldn't be further from the truth. Padawan is a title I can hope to live up to.
Knots Per Hour
My friend Mike is building an airplane. Check it out.