22 Jul

RVFTA #98 Beach Camping 101

Beach Camping 101On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about the gear you will need for the perfect beach camping vacation. We wrote an article on the topic for Progressive’s Life Lanes blog, and you can check it out here. You can also find all the necessary items we discuss listed in that article!

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Parking your rig in the sand requires a very different camp set up than when you are heading out into the woods. We have made all the mistakes and done all the research for you. Now here is your packing list.

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Play
24 Sep

Beach Camping: Three Small Products that Make a Big Difference!

Most people do not think of beach camping when they think of the fall season. But here at RV Family Travel Atlas, we believe September and October are the two best months of the year to park your rig in the sand. The crowds are gone, the weather is cooler, and the water is still warm.

We are headed off to one of our favorite beach camping spots in North Carolina this fall, so it is the perfect time to share three of our favorite little products that make a BIG difference when vacationing on the shore.

Kids Backpack Beach Chair

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This was an impulse purchase at a touristy beach store that ended up being one of our favorite items of beach gear. We hate it when our boys try to steal our beach chairs, but it is tricky to haul down seats for everyone in the family. We love that our boys can easily carry these chairs on their backs. Priced around $20, they seemed expensive at the time. However, they have lasted almost 4 years and are still in good shape.

Beach Umbrella Sand Anchor

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It is definitely windier on the beach in the fall, but often the sun is still strong enough to call for a beach umbrella. Don’t be one of those people chasing their umbrella down the beach. These sand anchors are very inexpensive, costing under $10 even at pricey beach bodegas. They are worth every penny.

Sand Off Baby Powder Mitt

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Beach veterans know that baby powder does a fantastic job getting sand off little bodies (and big for that matter). There are many baby powder pouch products out there that make the whole process even easier. I like this mitt version that goes over your hand and then you just wipe down the sandy arms, legs, and feet. Crafty folks could sew one of these in a flash…or just buy online like us.

In the mood for more fall beach camping talk? Listen to our Beach Camping podcast episode or read about our 4 Favorite Spots to Beach Camp in the Fall.

13 Sep

4 Fall Beach Camping Favorites on the East Coast

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On Episode #51 of the podcast–Fall Camping Rocks!–we talked about how our family adores beach camping in September and October. The crowds have thinned, the weather is cooler, and the water is still warm. We love wearing our bathing suits during the day and our hooded sweatshirts at night.

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Here are a few favorite spots for beach camping on the East Coast…

Cape Cod  

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The summer crowds disperse at the end of August and the bike trail, national seashore, kettle ponds, and Provincetown are yours to enjoy. Plan a trip around one of the many fall festivals such as the Scallop Festival in Bourne, Eastham’s Windmill Weekend, or the Cape Cod Brewfest in Falmouth.

Park your RV at Nickerson State Park, Atlantic Oaks Campground, or Cape Cod Campresort and Cabins.

Cape May

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This is our family’s favorite New Jersey destination, and we always try to squeeze in a September visit. Early morning bike rides on the boardwalk should be followed by big pancake breakfasts. You can make every dinner a special occasion with all of the amazing culinary options in this town. Peter Shields Inn, 410 Bank Street, and Freda’s Cafe are a few of our long-standing favorites. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride to end your day.

Seashore Campsites is the best place to camp near Cape May, and Holly Shores Camping Resort is a close runner up.

Assateague Island State Park

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This island in Maryland is only 10 miles outside of Ocean City but it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. Huge dunes, wild horses roaming free, empty beaches, and tons of great crabbing and fishing make this the perfect place to say goodbye to summer. They joke that the state bird is the mosquito, but there are noticeably fewer this time of year. Assateague Crab House is a nearby favorite, or drive into Ocean City and eat at Tequila Mockingbird. The food is good and the name is fabulous.

There is only one loop with hookups in the Assateague Island State Park campground and it sells out FAST. So unless you are good with dry camping, book a site one year in advance of your trip.

The Outer Banks

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The ocean can still be in the 70s in September, making this the perfect beach camping spot for surfers and kayakers. Of course, the 70 and 80 degree days are also perfect for those looking to lounge around and do nothing in particular. If you are feeling inspired to explore something other than the beach, walk to the top of the Hatteras Lighthouse, visit the Wright Brothers Memorial, and take a ferry over to Okracoke Island.

Our boys’ number one favorite campground ever is the Cape Hatteras KOA, where they get to run from the beach to the pool to the hot tub and then repeat the whole process over and over again. Ocean Waves Campground is a great option if you are traveling on a tighter budget.

Those are our top picks for fall beach camping on the East Coast. We would love to hear about your favorite spots. Leave a comment below or send us an email, and we will share your recommendation on the podcast!

16 May

RVFTA #35: Beach Camping!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about Beach Camping. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people are thinking about trying it out. We will discuss all the pros and cons of beach camping along with our tips for making it an enjoyable RV experience.

Plus, we will share our favorite places to beach camp up and down the East Coast along with some listener recommendations. Who is ready for sun, sand and relaxation? We certainly are, and you might find yourself booking that beach camping getaway by the end of this episode.

Tips for Beach Camping Zen

Beach camping can be tough. Many times the campsites are exposed and offer very little shade. The sand and wind drives some campers crazy. What is the secret to having a great time in spite of being a bit more exposed to the elements?

Embrace the RV. One thing we do is get up and enjoy the beach early, take a siesta in the AC during the midday heat, then go back to the beach again in the late afternoon.

Bring along extra swim suits, towels, and clothes. There will be many outfit changes during the day so you should be prepared!

Call the campground to see if there are sites with shade. Avoid booking online to make sure you get the best campsite for your family.

Bring lots of beach toys and equipment. We spend a lot more time at the campground when we are beach camping and it is important for us to have sand toys, paddle ball, wiffle ball, body boards, and bikes.

Always keep a tub of water by the RV. Make sure those lively little campers know how to rinse their feet before going into the camper to avoid tracking in sand!

Embrace the relaxation. When we are beach camping, we embrace the long days of swimming, playing, and bike riding. This is a chance to truly unwind and let the outside world fade away.

Our Favorite Beach Camping Locations

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Here is a list of the campgrounds we mention and recommend in this episode:

Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach State Carolina, South Carolina

Camp Hatteras, North Carolina

Cape Hatteras KOA, North Carolina

Ocean Waves Campground, North Carolina

Assateague Island State Park, Maryland

Seashore Campsites, Cape May, New Jersey

Holly Shores, Cape May, New Jersey

Atlantic Oaks, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Moorings Oceanfront RV Resort, MidCoast Maine

Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA, Maine

Listener Recommendations

Erica from Florida recommends Grayton Beach State Park in Grayton Beach, Florida AND the Burley Travoy Urban Bike Trailer that helps them carry all their gear down to the beach!

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Beth recommends Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys.

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And Misty recommends Fort Pickens Campground in Florida.

Thanks to all of our listeners who wrote in about their favorite beach camping locations. Keep the recommendations coming…you can post your favorite beach camping photos to our Facebook page and we will share them on our page!

Enjoy Episode #35 of RV Family Travel Atlas: Beach Camping! And see you at the campground!

Play
21 Aug

A Place to Play With Friends: Lincolnville, MidCoast Maine

Last time we were visiting MidCoast Maine, we stayed at Camden Hills State Park and found ourselves driving south on many days, exploring Camden, Rockland, Bath, and Boothbay. One afternoon, after a very busy day, we decided to take a drive to the north. To be honest, the boys were probably asleep in the car, and we most likely had time to kill.

However it happened, we ended up in Lincolnville which has one of those main streets that you can miss while blinking (or checking the GPS). A short stretch of sidewalk includes a few restaurants, a post office, and some shops filled with breakable items.

And also a beach. A small sand beach that almost disappears during high tide, it is the perfect place for young kids who love nothing more than splashing in chilly water without getting pummeled by waves. Three years ago we spent a lovely afternoon there and then had dinner at the lobster pound that is just a few short steps to the south of the beach.

This visit, we were staying farther north in Belfast. So we knew exactly where to go when trying to meet up with our friends from Rockland. Right smack in the middle, just a 20 minute drive for each of us, was Lincolnville.

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It is the kind of place where our five kids could play, while five adults chatted and caught up on the news of life. The kayak was easily launched, and the calm waters meant that we could let the kids mess around and practice a little bit of paddling. The adults also took their turns a bit farther out in the kayak…and yes, seals were spotted.

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At the south end of the beach, about 30 feet from where we were sitting, is McLaughlin’s Lobster Shack, with its huge green lawn, clean picnic tables, adirondack chairs, and beautiful water views.

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You will not get us to say that this is the best lobster roll in Maine. But it is very, very good. The chowder is just fine, but I’m picky right now since Wesley is on a serious chowder kick and we have ordered it at every single seafood joint in Maine, it seems. The boys devoured their fish ‘n chips, and the small bites we stole tasted extremely fresh and flavorful.

This place is not cheap, but let’s be clear about the value here. Can you put a price tag on your kids being able to run around like maniacs while you order, wait for, and eat pretty darn good lobster?

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And remember, you are all sandy and in bathing suits, sitting on towels and (how could I not mention?) drinking local beer. Yup, pay the extra couple of bucks and enjoy.

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After another swim, we dried off, changed the kids and loaded up the cars. One final conversation before pulling out led to the understanding that there was a local coffee roaster just a minute or two south on Route 1. Jeremy’s eyes lit up and off we went.

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Yes, the pounds of coffee that he bought from Green Tree Coffee & Tea have been excellent. And yes, Jeremy will most certainly be ordering some for shipping. Most likely in the cold, cold months of winter when the RV is all closed up and he is dreaming of MidCoast Maine.

 

15 Jul

Cape Cod Family Trip Planner: Beaches, Biking, Baseball, and More!

Planning a trip to Cape Cod? We spent a magical week there this summer and can’t wait to return. Here is our list of suggestions for where to stay, what to eat, and how to have tons of family fun.

Where to Stay

 

Atlantic Oaks RV Park

A great campground at a great price with super-clean facilities. Direct access to the Cape Cod Bike Trail.

Where to Eat and Drink

 

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Get in line early for Cape Cod’s best breakfast splurge. The Glazed Old Fashioned? Yum.

Beanstock Roastery

Buy enough for your whole trip. Then buy some more to bring home. We love the Wellfleet Blend and the Bali Blue Moon Organic.

Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar

Try the hot lobster roll. Please. Bring extra cash for ice cream after lunch.

Friendly Fisherman

Let the kids romp on the playground while you enjoy lobster rolls and crab cakes. BYOB.

MoJo'sP-TownSeafood Shack

The town librarian told us this was the quintessential Provincetown lunch. We couldn’t agree more.

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Perfect for lunch after hiking at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Ask for Janine for your waitress. She’ll recommend the Cape Cod Reuben. Order it.

 

Family Fun

First Encounter Beach

This bay beach is perfect for low-tide exploration. Bring the kites and kayaks for a perfect day on the Cape.

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The five dollar entry fee is the best bargain on Cape Cod. Hike around one of the kettle ponds or just settle in at Flax Pond for a family swim.

Cape Cod National Seashore

The visitor centers alone are full of fun activities and educational resources. Our favorite feature was the Nauset in Eastham Bike Trail that brought you within steps of the beach.

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Our boys are still learning to ride bikes and this was a wonderful way for us to embrace this fun family activity. We can’t wait to return without the training wheels.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife sanctuary

The landscape and trails here are stunningly beautiful. The nature center and educational activities are an added bonus. Make sure you go during low tide so you can enjoy the Boardwalk Trail.

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Who doesn’t love a lighthouse? This one is conveniently located in the National Seashore just north of the popular Coast Guard beach.

Provincetown Public Library

We had to drag our boys out of this library because it was long past lunchtime. It is just simply a beautiful and fun place to spend a few hours.

Baseball League

Nothing beats the crack of a wooden bat. We recommend that you skip the hotdog and buy a cup of clam chowder. Admission is free, but a donation is recommended.

As always, we love to hear from our readers. If you go to Cape Cod, please let us know any other places that you recommend. We can’t wait to add to this list when we return next June!

 

 

09 Jul

Well Done, Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Cape Cod

One of the wonderful surprises that Cape Cod offered us on our first visit was the great diversity of landscape. I think we expected to see beautiful beaches and dunes and not much else. However the kettle ponds, bay inlets, marshes, and wild National Seashore genuinely caught us off guard…and captured our hearts.

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So after you have had a few days at the beach, on the kayak, and in the sun, it is rather easy to find another outdoor diversion on Cape Cod. That is truly a remarkable thing to say about a beach vacation.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Mass Audubon, is the perfect place to visit if you need to stretch your legs after logging in some serious beach time. I would recommend visiting in the morning or late afternoon since many of the high-interest trails are not shaded. It is also best to go at low tide, when you can walk the Boardwalk over the salt marshes to the beach.

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The Nature Center has puzzles, books, and lots of tanks full of fish, turtles, and rare blue lobsters. The boys could have spent much more time inside, but we wanted to explore the Boardwalk before high tide rolled in.

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Our readers know I love a good scavenger hunt, and the Wellfleet Sanctuary came through with one that kept Max and Theo interested from the beginning to end of our visit. It was great for readers and non-readers alike, offering pictures for the boys to circle as the frogs, flowers, and crabs were spotted.

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There are many different options for walks both long and short. We, of course, wanted to go into the salt marshes where the boys could poke around for critters and pretend that the mud was quicksand sucking them into the bay.

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The best part about the walk we took was the variety of landscape. We started off in a garden of grasses, shrubs, and trees, then meandered down to a pond full of frogs and lily pads.

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Next the path led through a wooded area that opened up every once in a while for some great views of the salt marsh.

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Eventually we were on the boardwalk headed toward the bay where we watched fiddler crabs scurry away into their holes and sand crabs float in on the tide.

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The Wellfleet Sanctuary is a place that you could return to again and again with your children (or without!). If I lived in the area, I could easily see us visiting once a week. There are so many different high-interest areas to explore and paths to walk, we left feeling like we had only scratched the surface.

 

Next time we visit, I will look at the activity schedule ahead of time so we can hopefully take advantage of the many kid-friendly programs.

 

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And don’t forget to visit the Marconi Beach Restaurant just up the road for some hearty chow after your visit. If you are bringing along unruly kids make sure to ask for Janine. She’ll take care of you…unless we sent her into early retirement.

08 Jun

Be a Tourist in Your Hometown (Every Once in Awhile)

Here is what I am going to tell you about my town: no one who lives here goes to the town beach on the weekend. Ever.

You see, our waterfront has boardwalk attractions, so the locals go a little bit north or a little bit south and find a nice quiet bit of sand for a couple of hours of relaxation.

But when dear friends come into town for a very short visit, you simply must do what you have never done…spend an entire Saturday on the Point Pleasant Beach and Boardwalk.

Parking is a nightmare, of course, and the beach is crowded.

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The truth, though? It is downright fun.

We go from the beach to the rides and back to the beach again.

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Then it is off to Stewart’s for root beer and cheeseburgers eaten outside at picnic tables.

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A quick walk to Strollo’s Lighthouse, where I have been ordering orange italian ice with vanilla ice cream since I was about five years old.

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My boys have their own combinations and I wonder when they will settle into a favorite.

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On the short drive home, all three of the boys fall asleep. I feel sandy and salty, and I realize that it is easy to miss those dawn to dusk beach days when the ocean is in your own backyard.

Visiting friends helped us enjoy our home in a brand new way. We had such a wonderful day with our boys, and it was a day that we never would have planned as ‘locals’.

So y’all come back now, ya’ hear?

 

18 Apr

Sleepy Cypress Trees and the Silvery Ocean: Myrtle Beach State Park

When we pulled into Myrtle Beach State Park, Wesley was fast asleep.  His twin brothers, however, were not.  So we found a parking spot between the playground and the beach so Wes could rest and the boys could play.  Max informed me that I was going to be “the bad pirate” and that he and Theo were going to be “the good pirates.”  Then he informed me that I had to go over to the kiddy playset because that was my pirate ship and they were both about to raid it.  Things were not looking good for dad.

Much to my relief, the boys soon become engrossed on the larger of the two play sets—which allowed me to become engrossed in the warm southern charm of this majestically wooded state park.  While the boys ran and screamed I soaked in the stunning contrast of the sleepy cypress trees and the cool silvery ocean just beyond the dunes.

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I was hoping to run up to the beach for my first ocean swim of the season, but Wesley was awake and we decided to go for a stroll and check out the campground and the nature center instead.  We are staying at the Myrtle Beach KOA, and we have really loved it, and plan on coming back again, but this state campground looked fantastic too.  The sites were spacious and there were dozens of families riding bikes and making the short walk up to the beach for sand, surf, and sun.  The campground had no vacancy and was filled with a nice mix of tents, pop-up campers, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes of all shapes and sizes.

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The Myrtle Beach State Park Nature Center is tucked away in a cozy little corner at the south end of the campground near the horseshoe and bocce ball courts.  Stephanie commented that all campgrounds should have bocce ball courts.  They are cheap, easy to build, take up little real estate, and can provide hours of family friendly fun.  We also decided that every campground should have a nature center.

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Our whole family loved this place.  It was charming on the outside and colorful on the inside.  The boys were particularly attracted to the chalk board wall and each one of them drew a masterpiece or two before we all decided to head up to the beach.

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It was a little windy, but warm, and we were all so thankful to be in South Carolina, instead of back home in New Jersey, where it was 20 degrees colder.

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While Max and Theo played with their sand toys, Wes showed off his sweet new Myrtle Beach hat.  But the fun really started when the boys saw a teenage girl dribbling a soccer ball on the wide open sand.  She inspired them.  They asked to play soccer and I was happy to oblige–I had left a ball in the bed of my pick-up trunk for just such an occasion.

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Stephanie and I kicked the ball around with them for half an hour and had a blast.  It had been a perfect day and I couldn’t imagine it getting any better.  But I still had something that I really wanted to do.  As mommy played with the boys I waded out into the sparkling ocean for a quick swim.  It was a little cooler than I had imagined.  When the waves started crashing around my knees I was shivering and contemplating heading back to the beach.  Why was I hesitating? After all, I have surfed all winter long in New Jersey in 30 to 40 degree water temps–and I have always loved a cold water swim.  Maybe because the day had been long and fun and I was tired?  Or maybe because I was in an unfamiliar place?

Just then I looked to my right and saw an eight or nine year old boy swimming further out than I was.  He was diving under the waves and laughing.  He inspired me.  I dove under the next wave and popped up feeling cold but invigorated.  Another wave rolled in and I swam over to it, turned towards the shore, and bodysurfed it all the way back onto the beach of my new favorite state park.

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Myrtle Beach State Park costs five dollars per person for a day pass, which can also be used at Huntington Beach State Park for free admission on the same day.  Ages five and under are free at both locations.  If you want to camp make sure you book early–the campground is very popular–and for good reason. Peak season rates run from 27 to 42 dollars.  They offer full hook up sites, water and electric sites, rustic tent sites, and cabin rentals. Don’t forget to visit the nature center and bring your bathing suits and bocce balls!

 

 

 

17 Apr

Alligators, Architecture, and the Atlantic Ocean: Huntington Beach State Park

I’m going to go ahead and admit something. I have never once in my life seen an alligator in the wild. I’m a little confused by this myself. I mean I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, and a lot of that travel has been in natural environments with tons of wildlife. But somehow…no alligators.

Well, check something off the bucket list that I didn’t even know was on there.

The alligators are the first thing you get to experience when driving into Huntington Beach State Park, so I couldn’t help but stop on the causeway and gawk…something that we were specifically instructed not to do. We did, however, refrain from feeding them.

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When I finally recovered from my childlike excitement, stopped blocking traffic, and parked in the appropriate parking lot, we walked the path along the causeway that cuts through the freshwater lagoon and the saltwater marsh. Wesley got his first ride in the hiking backpack (last year he was in the Ergobaby)…

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…and we discovered that the only way to push the mute button on Theo and Max is to place them in the presence of large reptiles. (These are not staged photos)

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After the walk–which allowed me to trot out some waterfowl knowledge gained from my recent birding craze–it was historical architecture time. We toured Atalaya, a home built in the 1930s by a sculptor, Archer Huntington. There is a self-guided tour (really numbers with room designations) that actually is quite useful in piecing together the house. If you have watched Downton Abbey (or any upstairs/downstairs drama) that might help considerably as well.

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Here’s the real skinny: if you have kids that need a lot of running around in life, Atalaya is for you. Our boys ran from room to room, up and down hallways and around in circles. They found themselves stuck at dead ends and then just turned around and raced somewhere else. It really is the perfect kind of historical landmark, where the adults can explore the beauty of the past and kids can scream. Win/Win.

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We hadn’t been planning on doing the whole beach thing, but it was gorgeously warm and the ocean called…by which I mean that Max and Theo ended up stripping off their shirts and diving into the waves in their shorts. Wes held his own, experiencing the whole walking on sand thing for the first time in his life.

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For these winter-embattled North Easterners, the sun, sand, and sea was intensely therapeutic. Our day at Huntington Beach State Park was the sort that left you saying, we will come back here…over and over and over again.

The nitty-gritty: We paid $5 per adult (all three kids were free). That entry price is also good for Myrtle Beach State Park, if you choose to do both in the same day. Make sure you pick up coupons for Brookgreen Gardens (good for $2 off each paid admission) at the ranger station. There is a great 2-mile hike, and lots of ranger-led activities, so look at an activity calendar before you go.

 

 

 

24 Feb

What I Learned From a Couple of Nice Weekends in February…

Years ago, long before the boys arrived on the scene, the temperatures hit the high sixties on a weekend in February. Jeremy and I had a different sort of life then, and the weather inspired us to hightail it to a bed and breakfast in Cape May where we spent the weekend walking and eating and laying around in the sand. It was one of those weekends that you hold on to forever, one of those memories that you can feel and smell.

This past weekend we weren’t able to run off to a romantic locale. No, that’s not right at all. We actually did. We ran off to our favorite local places, the reservoir and the beach. We splashed in puddles, played on a new pirate playground, and leapt off of sand mountains. It was the first time Wes sat in the sand, letting it run through his fingers. And he didn’t eat any of it.

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This was one of those weekends in February that I will remember. I will remember how the sun felt and how the melting snow and the sea smelled. On both days, the boys thanked us in that precious, innocent way that 4 year olds have. Thanks for taking us on a hike. Thanks for taking us to the beach.

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And I wanted to say back, Thanks for teaching me that joy is its own sort of romance. And we found some today.

17 Oct

Storming the White House…No Government Shutdown Here!

As Stephanie mentioned in her last past, our trip to the Edwyn B. Forsythe Wildlife Preserve was a complete bust.  Largely because we did not know it was a NATIONAL preserve.  Thanks again Congress.  Your approval rating finally hit zero in our station wagon last Saturday.

Stephanie also mentioned that after driving up to the barricaded gates we made a sensible parenting decision by deciding to take our three young boys to Atlantic City.  But what she did not mention is that we brought our complaints about the shutdown directly to the White House.  The campers are always willing to fight the good fight and stand up for what is right.  Especially when the subs are this good…

 

President Obama was nowhere to be found, but President Clinton’s picture was on the wall!  That guy knew how to negotiate with Republicans, and he also knew how to enjoy a great submarine sandwich.  Stephanie and I ordered a whole White House Special (pictured above) and the boys split a tuna.  As we dug into our our absolutely scrumptious, perfectalicious sandwiches our government shutdown blues began to fade away.  The bread was fresh baked, and the cold cuts were thick, but not too thick, and abundantly flavorful.  But it is the diced peppers and onions that really take things over the top at this White House, where their sandwich approval rating hits 100 percent on a daily basis.  The “Special” is so much more than a submarine.  It is a metaphor for everything that is good and wholesome and historical about the Jersey Shore.  Eating one of these monsters fills up your stomach and your heart.  Monopoly anyone?

After lunch at their Taj Mahal location (The original White House Submarines is on Arctic Avenue) everyone wanted to take a nap…

 

But we decided to hit the boards and burn off some calories instead.  The weather was cloudy and cool, with raindrops here and there, but it was still a lovely afternoon for a stroll.

 

And for checking out sandcastles…

 

And for playing on the beach and watching the seagulls fly by…

 

And for snuggling with the Wes Man…

 

The boys even enjoyed the view from the parking garage as we packed the car to head home….
It was not the day that we had planned and imagined.  But when you have kids, planning and imagining often just get you out the door.  And that’s more than okay.  The fun often starts where the barricades begin.
30 Sep

This is How the Summer Ends….See You Next Year, Cape May

 Getting the best site at Seashore Campsites…
 Walking towards the sunset…
Hanging with the Wes Man…
 Playing on the beach…
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Playing hide and seek…
Shutting down the pool for the season…
Searching for Monarch Butterflies at “Butterfly Beach”…
And finding them…
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Eating gummy frogs…
Sharing ice cream at “the point”…
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Spotting dolphins swimming by…
And going for one last ocean swim…
Thank you Cape May…
19 Jul

What It’s REALLY All About: Stephanie’s Boots on the Ground

While my husband was pondering the metaphysical during our third family trip to Hatteras, I was thinking about things a bit more concretely.Sitting on the beach this year, holding a sleeping infant and watching my four-year olds play and splash, I realized I was thankful for three things:1. Four-year olds don’t eat sand.

2. Four-year olds don’t steal toys from random kids on the beach.

3. Four-year olds don’t wear swim diapers.

Next year we will be back in the thick of it when Wes starts shoveling fistfuls of sand into his mouth and taking purple shovels from innocent girls.

But this year I enjoyed the respite.

18 Jul

What is the Journey About? Jeremy’s Feeling a Bit Sentimental…

When I was in the fourth or fifth grade my grandfather brought our whole family to Disney World for a reunion of sorts–there were 18 or 19 of us.  The trip was supposed to be a surprise (my grandfather loved surprises) but somebody accidentally spilled the beans and I found out months in advance (my family loved to spill the beans).

I looked forward to that trip every day while I was sitting in class and every night as I was laying in bed.  The wild freedom of my childish imagination had kicked into overdrive.  My mind envisioned the Magic Kingdom in epic terms–it was huge–it was fun–it was fast.  The roller coasters reached up into the clouds and then plunged down into the deepest darkest depths.  Inevitably, the actual trip, though excellent in every way, (I even met Joe DiMaggio for goodness sake) fell short of what I had imagined.  The “real” Magic Kingdom was small and crowded, and there were only two roller coasters–neither of them very fast or very scary.

When we spend too much time dreaming about travel we often do ourselves a disservice–better to let the journey work its own magic and then let the imagination refine and mythologize it after the fact.  For me that journey to Disney World was all about thwarted expectations.  I needed to learn to become a better traveller, and eventually I did.  In my late teens and twenties I let the experience of travel come to me without the baggage of expectation.

***

But now I am the one planning the trips for my family.  And I spend an awful lot of time day-dreaming about them on cold winter days during the long work-week.  But an interesting change has occurred.  No matter how much time I spend imagining or pre-mythologizing the perfect RV trip with my family–they always end up being even better.  Even with a baby crying for long stretches in the car, and twins  that sometimes whine and misbehave–the trips always end up better than imagined.  So I have been wondering, why is this?  Doesn’t imagination always trump reality?

Not when you have kids.  Travel is even more exciting for me now, and even better than what I can imagine on those dark winter days.  This is because I simply can’t imagine how our boys will act in an exciting new environment, or how they will surprise us, and delight us, and make us laugh as they explore each new place.  First they are shy, then inquisitive, then delighted, as they throw themselves into the thick of each experience.  My boys always surprise me.  Every day.  Every minute. There is an element of spontaneity and joy that children bring to travel that can’t be matched by traveling alone.

Here is the recipe that has worked for Stephanie and me.  The ingredients are simple.  Please follow them if you can.

1. Have Children
2. Buy Camper
3. Travel

After that, the kids will pretty much take care of the rest.

Our last day on the beach at the Cape Hatteras KOA was as lovely as a beach day can be.  The sky was blue and silver and the water was a translucent green straight to the bottom.  The boys played in the waves, and mommy watched all three of them for a while so I could go out and surf.  The waves were peaky and fun and the water was warm.  While I caught a few the boys jumped and splashed and splashed at the ever-shifting edge of the sand.  I think they love the beach as much as Stephanie and I do–and that makes me very happy–because I know we’ll take them back again and again.

Our beach camping trip had been lovely,  but it was time to say goodbye to Cape Hatteras and hello to the next chapter of our North Carolina road trip.  Not so sad really–we live near the beach at the Jersey Shore.

 What is the journey about?  The journey is about them.
13 Jul

We’ve Got Our Mojo Workin’ (and our campers are chillin’)

We have settled into a relaxing groove here at the Cape Hatteras KOA–and it’s official–we’ve got our MOJO working.  Stephanie and I were both a bit nervous (albeit in very different ways) about traveling with such a little camper–but Wes is a budding young star–and a potential KOA rookie of the year.  My big little man really seems to love the beach.  Here he is relaxing with mommy.

And a bit later taking a refreshing nap and enjoying the ocean air…

While I actually caught a few waves on my bodyboard…

And mommy cooled off her feet…

Meanwhile, Max prepared to dig a really big hole with his powerful purple shovel (Theo’s is pink)…

And Theo tried to prove that he brushed his own teeth this morning…

After about 3 hours we headed back up to the camper and I showed off my sherpa skills.  I almost crashed into another dad who also had a double stroller on the wooden walkway coming back from the beach–but we both executed last second pivots to avoid a catastrophe.  I overheard a nearby mom say, “Wow, that was really fun to watch!”

We dropped of some stuff at our site and decided to head to the pool.  Max and Theo wanted to scoot there with their goggles on–and insisted that they were “super spies.”
Pretty incognito, huh?
11 Jul

A Long Day’s Journey Into Night (and the fun that followed…)

So traveling with kids is not all peaches and cream. We don’t want to sell our loyal readers a false bill of goods.  As you know, we have a blast with our lively little campers, but there are also moments when parenthood can almost drive you bonkers.

We left for our sixteen day North Carolina extravaganza on Monday at about 3:00pm.  And just like last year we decided to break up the drive to the Cape Hatteras KOA by staying at Camp Wal-Mart in Onley, Virginia–which could easily be renamed “Lonely Virginia.”  Until our camping buddies arrived we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

The six hour drive to Onley was pretty rough. Baby Wes cried the entire time.

Mommy’s nerves were shredded.  (Don’t worry, this photo is not from his car seat.  We do buckle our children in.)

Once we got settled into Camp Wal-Mart the reality set in that the camper was pretty darn hot.  So daddy heroically decided to head into the superstore for supplies and cold water.

Did I dawdle a little bit in the coolness of the camping aisle?  Why yes, I did.  But then I realized that Stephanie and my three little boys were alone in the back of a dark Wal-Mart parking lot.  So I trekked back to the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had.  The boys were sweating and scared, and I had to sleep on the floor between their beds.  The problem with this scenario is that both of the twins still fall out of those beds a lot.  They each crashed onto my head about three times during the night.  I felt a little like Holden Caulfield–The Catcher in the Camper.

Morning came and we all woke up sweaty and sticky.  So I headed outside to talk to camping buddy Joe who was parked next to us.  After we greeted each other he suggested that we get the heck out of Dodge.  He said, “I’m okay with spending the night here, but once the people start shopping and looking into our campers it’s time to leave.”  We packed up pronto and headed back out onto the open road.  Wes did a bit better during the final stretch–despite an explosive seven-wipe poop that found its way down to his toes.  Camping Mojo levels were on the rise as we headed into Dare County and onto the Outer Banks.

When we arrived at the KOA things got fun really fast (as they pretty much always do)–and the stress of the long drive and the muggy night melted away.

We played on the pirate playground…

We splashed in the world’s greatest campground pool…

Then we headed over to the bounce pillow…

After dinner we went down to the beach for wiffle-ball and kite flying…

We told the boys no getting wet–and that seemed to make them a little sad. So they inched down a bit closer to the water…

And then they disregarded our “no getting wet” rule completely.

And I am so glad they did…..

Onward.
29 Mar

Beach Camping with the Comeback KOA: Cape Hatteras, North Carolina


We had one week of summer vacation left and our wanderlust was getting the best of us again.  I was watching the weather reports for three different regions.  Would we spend our last week of summer vacation hiking in New Hampshire? Or visiting family and listening to bluegrass in The Blue Ridge Mountains? Or being beach bums in the Outer Banks?    
It was 72 hours before our planned departure date and we still hadn’t made up our minds.  All of the options seemed awesome and we really wanted to take all three trips.  Stephanie and I agreed that we would make a final decision that night when she returned from teaching a workshop at her school.
When she walked in the door eight hours later she told me that she had some “news” for me.  I thought that she had made up her mind about the camping trip—but instead she told me that she was pregnant!  We were going to have a very busy and exciting year in front of us—so we decided that it was definitely time to spend a week being beach bums in North Carolina.
The Cape Hatteras KOA is my favorite place for beach camping on the East Coast.  The Atlantic Ocean is right on the other side of the dunes and the waves are consistently good for surfing.  I had packed my boards and I was itching to catch some waves.  But when we pulled into the KOA my kids wanted nothing to do with the ocean—they had seen the bounce pillow, the pirate playground, and the brand new pool!  I could hear the waves crashing over the dunes but they would have to wait.
We had camped at the Cape Hatteras KOA before when the boys were toddlers.  But that was before Hurricane Irene destroyed much of the campground.  We knew that much of the KOA had been rebuilt but we didn’t know just how extensive the redesign was.  The new pool was ridiculously nice.  In fact, it is the nicest pool that I have ever seen at a campground.  There are two lanes for lap swimming, an area with slides for the older kids, and an absolutely lovely walk-in low end where my kids spent about three hours every day.  The campground is also filled with brand new elevated cabins that boast views of the ocean and the sound.

 

I woke up early on our first morning and brewed some fresh coffee and walked up to the beach to check the waves.  The surf looked really good.  The waves were about waist high and glassy and there were plenty of them.  The water was warm and crystal clear and I surfed all morning.  When I headed back to our campsite I was completely exhausted.  But when you have twin boys exhausted just doesn’t cut it.  It was time to head to the bounce pillow, and then to the playground, and then to the pool.
We settled into a very relaxing routine at the Cape Hatteras KOA.  We would wake up early every morning and head to the beach—then after about an hour I would head to the pool with the boys and give mom some relaxing reading time in her beach chair.  Mom would steal an hour or so for herself and then meet us at the pool.  We ended our days by taking part in the many activities that the campground offered on-site.  We indulged at the ice-cream social, made new friends on the daily train ride, and had a blast making tie-dye shirts for the boys.

Our week at the Cape Hatteras KOA was exactly what we had hoped it would be–relaxing and easy.  There are plenty of things to do on the Outer Banks, but we spent most of our time having a blast right on the campground.   Daddy surfed, mommy read on the beach, and Max and Theo showed off their sweet new goggles at the pool.   A beautiful double rainbow spread across the ocean on our last night—promising us many great camping trips to come—and another little camper to share them all with.