Category: U.S. States

Swimming at Mason Lake

“Summertime and the living’s easy and Bradley’s on the microphone with Ras m.g. All the people in the dance will agree that we’re well qualified to represent the LBC” Doin’ TimeSublime

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It’s no wonder that Mason Lake in Washington is FILLED with people utilizing it’s vast body of fun and swimming potential. When I was first invited to go by my cousin Chris, I was a bit hesitant. I wondered what would be in the lake and how the water was. So far, my experience in bodies of water (other than the ocean) have me searching for snakes and jellyfish like crazy. In NC our rivers and lakes have snakes, jellyfish and even alligators (depending on where you are). Well, even though I was skeptical I couldn’t pass it up. For whatever reason, being in Washington definitely has brought me out of my shell a bit and I appreciated the invitation.

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I drove to Olympia to Chris and Brooke’s house. We loaded up the truck and his cool little motor boat (that goes pretty fast for a 70’s model) and hit the road for a 30/40 minute trip to Mason Lake. Apparently it’s pretty popular from what I was told and it REALLY was. There were boats EVERYWHERE. People were swimming like crazy. I was kind of blown away by how many people were utilizing this lake. I’ve never seen so many people in a body of water at one time like this. Well, I found out that there are no jellyfish or snakes in these lakes! They’re freshwater and don’t have those creepy little things floating in them. So why wouldn’t you be in it having the best time of your life? It’s also QUITE warm, unlike Wynoochee Dam.

This lake trip wasn’t just about swimming. It was also about TUBING!

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No, that’s not me. It’s Brooke. LOL I fell off pretty quickly. It was a little hard to keep myself on the tube. But it was fun while it lasted!! Hahaha I did get in the water and swam for a while and then got back in and chilled out. We had such a blast!

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We ate an awesome lunch of sandwiches and swam some more, but as all good things do come to an end we headed back to the dock. On the way I noticed a FINE home that looked pretty sweet!

imageA lot of the houses are nice like this but for whatever reason this one stood out to me the most. It looks like everything you would think a lake house would look like. I also noticed that all the homes in Washington are not brick. Apparently it’s kind of expensive to have a brick home and it’s not as easily accessible as it is on the east coast. But this home would have done just fine for me 😉

It was incredibly nice of Chris and Brooke to invite me on their adventure. I had a wonderful time with them as well as Chris’s son Jordan. Chris really went out of his way to make sure I was having a good time and I did just that. I’ve gotta find something equally as cool for them to do when they come out to visit! But what?

 

The 4th in Aberdeen

“She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else. After all it was a great big world with lots of places to run to and if she had to die tryin’ she had one little promise she was gonna keep.” American GirlTom Petty and the Heartbreakers

During the 4th of July, most all of America is up and running. People are gathering with their families to roast hot dogs, hamburgers, eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and basically enjoy all things American. In Belhaven, where I’m from, they PARTICULARLY LOVE and celebrate the 4th with major festivities. They start off the day before with a Miss Independence Padgent then move into a “Street Dance” that lasts until very late. People dance the night away and have a great time. Then the next day there’s quite a large parade with festivities around every corner and booths to buy lots of cool junk. Up the road from this, there is a famous “Mud Run” where trucks are forced into the mud with their tires-a-spinning and the redneck in every one of us flying. You could say Belhaven is pretty hoppin’. But there’s one thing that can make all of this not worth the effort and that’s THE HEAT! One of the sayings go, “It’s hotter than the Belhaven 4th of July’s in here!” That’s when you know it’s hot! LOL So…this year I took great satisfaction in enjoying our day of independence in the nice 78 degree weather that was Aberdeen WA. :p

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Everyone gathered together: Me, mom, dad, sister, nieces, cousins, cousin’s girlfriends and children. We feasted on some wonderful dishes: watermelon, cheese/summer sausage and crackers, pasta salads of all kinds, crab salad, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, cookies, WA cherries and other fruits. We played “Washers” (which is something like cornhole I suppose) and were just all around merry. Check these guys out. Dad (on the left) is attempting to explain something in the best of ways. Tommy (my cousin on the right) of course looks confused, but I assure you he’s not. Though he may be deciphering the white man’s speak.

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It was really great because I got to hang out with my cousin Chris. This summer’s trip was the first time I’ve seen him since I was 13 years old. I have great memories of those times. I met him and a lot of other relatives at a family reunion in Cowden Illinois (look for that post to come). He was 18 then and now we’re both in our 30’s. My how time flies!

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We really were having a great time. It was the first time in many years that I’ve really enjoyed myself. There was no heat really and it seemed like the most simplest, easiest action to just put food out and hang with the family!

Now, let me say that Belhaven puts on a nice little firework show at 9 p.m. It’s nice. BUT, in North Carolina, only cities can administer big fireworks. They’re illegal for residents to just shoot them off (or at least some are). In WA State…THEY’RE LEGAL! This town and every other town is lit up with explosions. Here, there, EVERYWHERE they shoot them off. Fireworks had been blasting off for days before the 4th actually came around. So naturally, Chris being the dude he is went and bought a lot of fireworks so we could have our own firework show!

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Everyone was ready to kick it off! Even the kid.

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It was so funny because he set all the chairs up in a row to watch the fire show commence. Hey look! It’s Kenny again! LOL

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These fireworks weren’t just some run-of-the-mill fireworks. These were the BIG ones!

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It was so exciting even I decided to try my hand at it. I lit several off. I have to tell you I was a little nervous to start with but after that it was all in good fun! After the show commenced we were all lit up; on the inside as well as outside. I know I definitely was. Yes, that IS a sweater. The nights are cold in Aberdeen.

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Our 4th of July celebration was a hit and I’d LOVE to do it every year. I do love America. God bless our soldiers and all of those who fought for us to be free! We know it comes at a price. We love you and will always support you.

Wynoochee Dam

“Well, way down yonder on the Chattahoochee it gets hotter than a hoochie coochie.” Chattahoochee – Alan Jackson

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That song was all I could think of when the family told me we would be going to the “Wynoochee Dam” to swim and picnic!

The dam is made up of glacier water that has come off of the mountain and rested in somewhat of a lake. People swim and boat in it and that seems okay but you can imagine  my concern; for what else would I be worried about than how COLD that water would be?! YES! It was definitely cold. Tolerable but cold. It is definitely not like rivers or lakes in NC but it’s to be understood because of it being glacier water!

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Swimming was fun and I have to say I’ve been swimming more this summer than I have in the past two summers combined!

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It’s really cool because there are picnic tables set up at different locations for people to eat, hang out and grill if need be. I kind of thought it was odd that you could grill out in that heavily wooded area. This summer has been considerably dry and everyone in our party was a bit worried about sparking up the grill. That worry left when the stomachs began to growl.

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It was absolutely beautiful…looking around at all the trees and even the dried up light brown grass. LOL

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The trees are definitely beautiful in Washington; like no other. And THIS guy seems to be in ALL the shots! (Kenny)

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So we’re swimming in the dam and all of a sudden Kenny says, “Hey look! It’s Smokey!”. We all thought he was teasing but he wasn’t! It really was SMOKEY THE BEAR! He was walking around the beach and greeting everyone.

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I was lucky enough to meet him and get his picture. I can’t believe I’ve met Smokey The Bear 😉

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Basically I really enjoyed the Wynoochee Dam.

The Loop Pt. 2

“I love you when you’re singing that song and I got a lump in my throat cause you’re gonna sing the words wrong.” RiptideMisterWives

After the Big Cedar tree we stopped to have some sandwiches we packed in the amazing Yeti cooler! It has really come in handy throughout our travels. We wouldn’t have been able to financially do a lot of what we have done if we didn’t have that cooler to pack food in. So, big props to Yeti.

Our next stop was very unexpected to me because I didn’t know where we would be. To my surprise it was at a BEACH, “Ruby Beach” to be exact.

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The beach is beautiful and so very different from our beaches in NC. There’s no sand, only rocks and pebbles that range from large to small.

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Check this guy out. He must be a photographer from National Geographic! I should have asked for his autograph. 😉

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Ruby Beach, as you can see is quite stunning and just very beautiful. I think some of the beauty comes from the big rock formations next to the beach and that visual makes it so interesting to look at. In NC and on the east coast, you don’t have these huge rocks next the beaches to make it interesting but you have the warmth of the water to swim in and the nice warm sand between your toes. Overall the beaches along the west coast are breathtaking and definitely possess a character of their own.

After Ruby Beach we continued north. We came into Forks, WA. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this place, the Twilight Series kind of put this place on the map. The fantasy romance novels were based in Forks Washington. The movies, on the other hand, were not filmed entirely in this town. There was a scene filmed in Forks and another scene filmed at “La Push” which is a beach just north of Forks. Other than these two sites, I believe most of the movies were filmed in Canada. Well, that did NOT stop Forks from capitalizing on whatever they could from the movie.

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These pictures were taken at the visitors center. I didn’t make any images of the town because there were no images to make. It’s just a tiny little town that you drive through to get to your next destination. It’s one road and the entire town is branded with all sorts of shops named all things, “Twilight”. So they would have shops named something like “Twilight Hair Designs”, “Bella’s Beauty Shop” or “Vampire Lounge”. These are not exact names of their shops, however you get the idea. Though I WILL say that they have a spectacular 4th of July schedule of festivities lined up for our day of Independence! We were planning on attending this because we would be camping at the Clearwater, but unfortunately we never went camping due to forest fires 😦 Now I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right! I bet you were glad to get outta that one!” But I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t get the opportunity to experience it for the first time in agreeable weather. I can’t imagine camping in NC which is why I never did it.

At some point on this vacation I always think I have seen all there is to see in terms of beauty. I think, “That’s it. There’s not going to be anything else more beautiful than what I’ve seen. I’m completely satisfied; I’ve seen it all.” But then there’s ALWAYS something EVEN MORE magnificent around the corner. In this case it was, “Crescent Lake“.

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Now, I would like to let you know that sometimes I have to put myself in compromising positions to get really great shots; walking down rough terrain into dangerous positions, climbing up rocks and almost falling or stepping out onto a ledge 3,000 ft above ground level, forgoing all my fears of heights just to get that one good shot. Crescent Lake was no different. There were no pull-offs where you could safely get a picture. We did find a pull-off that I had to walk about 50 yards away from to get a good image. So I had to step over the railing on the side of the road to get the images. I was not ON the road by any means. I was about 6 ft. from the road. For WHATEVER reason, 3 cars came by me and BEEPED their horns obnoxiously! Why? I was not on the road so there was no fear of them hitting me and to further justify that, there was a rail blocking them and myself. I’m still quite puzzled by this. My thought was, “Are you they beeping because they think I’m going to jump off the ledge?” Well beeping certainly wouldn’t help my staying on it! Anyway, if anyone has any ideas, please leave them in the comments below. It’s been bugging me for a long time. LOL

Billy’s

“I enjoy stealing. It’s just as simple as that. Well, it’s just a simple fact. When I want something, and I don’t want to pay for it.” Been Caught StealingJane’s Addiction

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There’s a restaurant here in the interesting town of Aberdeen called, “Billy’s”. It’s actually quite nice and definitely up my alley for places to frequent and get a bite to eat. It has that old antique feeling and that’s probably why I like it? The only odd part about it is the restaurant is named after a man named, “Billy Gohl” of whom was a serial killer up until he was captured in or around 1910. I spoke with a lovely waitress at the restaurant who told me quite a bit.

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The building this restaurant is in, used to be a brothel back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s (as evident by the logo). The bottom portion houses the restaurant and the top portion acts as a storage unit. You can see through all the windows upstairs and can make out the vague sillouhettes of mannequin’s wearing feather boa’s and lingerie. 😉 Notice the Leg Lamp in the top window. You know, the one from A Christmas Story? Too funny.

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Apparently the restaurant is haunted. Yes that’s right, haunted. A woman and a small boy occupy both the downstairs portion of the building AND the upstairs. It is said that the woman was one of the prostitutes that lived there back in the late 1800’s.

I spoke with a lovely waitress at the restaurant who told me some interesting ghost stories:

One afternoon she (the waitress) was rolling silverware. To the far right of her sat a large water pitcher that held – to the brim, many wine corks the bar had collected. All of a sudden several of the wine corks floated into the air and started twisting around themselves and then all of a sudden they fell back into the pitcher.   

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On a separate occasion she was talking to the cook. In the middle of their conversation two spoons from one of the tables floated into the air, spun around each other and immediately – just like the wine corks, fell back to the table. She said to the cook, “You saw that right? That wasn’t my imagination?” He said, “Yes, I definitely saw that.”

The same waitress, along with two others said that there are a number of occasions where they will be doing their work and a coffee cup will just fly across the room and *Wham* smack up against the wall and shatter. There is also the thudding of feet heard above the bar. They say it sounds like a little kid running back and forth. That’s a little creepy.

You have to admit the stories are pretty wild. I myself am not a believer of ghosts but I do believe in evil spirits/demons or what have you. I was really curious about this whole thing  and found it quite entertaining.

Which all brings me to Billy Gohl. Well, this is how the story goes:

Billy Gohl was a union worker and had a place not far from this restaurant. It was said that he frequented this specific brothel regularly. Sailors would come into the union building when they would arrive in Grays Harbor (Aberdeen ) and would pick up their mail or leave their belongings there while they went out. It was said that Billy would approach these young men and ask them if they had family or not. If they didn’t have family he would offer to hold their money and worthwhile items in a safe while they frequented the brothels and saloons. Well of course these guys took him up on his offer. The guys would go out, get super drunk and come back to claim their possessions and that’s when Billy would shoot them.
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His building sat close to the Wishkah river and it’s rumored that he had a chute in the top floor where he would send the bodies swooshing down into the river upon killing them. This is, of course, after he took all of their money and anything worth while.

It wasn’t until 1910 that Gohl was found guilty on two counts of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Now it’s said that he was thought to have killed more than 100 people (local townsfolk say this). He died in prison due to syphilis. They say it made him go insane.

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It’s truly a creepy story. It kind of reminds me of the musical “Sweeney Todd”. I always thought that play was really odd, creepy and dare I say it, completely neat! I don’t know if this makes me a weirdo but I definitely enjoy things out of the norm.

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Even though the story is wild and kind of creepy, that didn’t stop this bunch from having a good time! This is my new favorite place.

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Mt. Rainier

“Comin’ down the mountain. One of many children. Everybody has their own opinion…” Mountain SongJane’s Addiction

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Like most fantastic sites to see, Mt. Rainier is coming in hot on the “fantastic sites” meter. Boy what a huge volcanic mountain! I tell you, along with Mount St. Helens this place is just as enormous and wonderous! One thing I noticed after we left, was how mysterious Mt. Rainier is! It’s this huge, gigantic mountain that seems like it has its own personality.

While we’ve been here it feels like I’ve been “chasing” this mountain for weeks now. You can see the mountain from hours away because of how large it is. We can see it here in Aberdeen, which is about 3 hours away. You can definitely see it from Seattle, 2 hours away and so it seems as though in specific spots you can see the peak or part of this amazing wonder. However, at times it has been hidden by fog, clouds or darkness; the one time I got to see it before we actually went to it was on the Bremerton ferry to Seattle (check out Seattle Part 1 to see what I’m talking about). This elusiveness kind of gives it an interesting trait. It’s like it’s playing a game with you and knows you want to see it but won’t come out until it feels sorry for you and only then will it let you glimpse at it. But on the flip side, it seems to be quite visible from every direction – thus giving it it’s elusiveness. It only took a couple of hours to arrive at Mt. Rainier and so, like most of the attractions, there are many pull-offs you can stop at to get out and take pictures. On route you can see that everything is quite rustic: the cabins, houses, food places etc. It’s not only rustic but it’s VERY green! Along the way you can see moss growing on all the trees inside of the forest area. And no, this is not spanish moss.

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Whenever I end up in a spot so beautiful that I have to make an image, I say to myself, “Gosh I want everyone to see this.” And so it goes that I have to show you this beautiful image with the light busting through and hanging over the trees and spilling onto the little walkway.

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That was our first stop coming into Mt. Rainier. Our next stop was directly in the national park. You do have to pay to go through it:

  • Vehicles: $20
    Motorcycles/ Walk-In/Bicycles: $10
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There are four entrances to Mt. Rainier, we went in through the “Paradise” side. It’s not as beautiful as the “Sunrise” side but it was still beautiful…as you can see 🙂

We kept on going until we reached a place where we could have a nice picnic. We had quite the caravan with us; 10 people. But we found a place – a NICE place!

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Here are some of the picnic crew.

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What you DON’T see is that FANTASTIC “Yeti” cooler to the left-hand side of the image. That cooler is the end all, be all to coolers! I highly recommend it. My friend Kelly and her husband Heath have one and swear by it. We do as well. It has kept our food cool for at least 4 days like it was the first day! We haven’t gone longer than 4 days but we will find out when we go camping at the Clearwater if it can keep the cool longer.

You would have thought I was the paparazzi the way I was snapping pictures (and I’m sure you can tell from the images above). It’s the same mountain just different angles. LOL, it was so magnificent I just want no one to miss anything!

Info on the Mountain:

*In Mt. Rainier, 97% of the park is wilderness and is protected from development. It became an official national park in 1899. It’s an active volcano and has repeated eruptions! When it erupts again they say it could be devastating. Geologists also say that Lahars will be the devastation that comes from the eruption (a slew of material looking like wet concrete).

Engineers designed the roads specifically for view and not by how easy it would be. Even though these roads are nice to drive on, it’s because of the winter snow and ice that much of the park is inaccessible. They say that sometimes you can hear the glaciers pop and crack as they move as well as avalanches! Another thing that I thought was pretty neat was that the mountain creates its own weather system. I think that’s clever. I never knew that.*

We finally arrived at the visitors center at “Paradise Inn”.

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This is the final stop to see her in all her glory.

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These signs are plastered all over the picnic tables throughout the entire drive up:

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These are obvious warnings but if you’re unfamiliar, wildlife inhabit this entire national park and so when you picnic, you are not picnicking alone. 😉 Somewhere there is a bear smelling your food like Yogi and wanting to get your “Pic-a-nic Basket!” Just make sure he doesn’t have a sidekick named “Boo Boo” or you may have bigger problems than wildlife.

When you leave the visitors center, just a little ways down there is an area named, “Packwood” where there sits a BEAUTIFUL little waterfall and a nice tall view.

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I thought it was kind of neat how the wind had blown in just one direction that the branches permanently face this way.

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And of course, there is the tallness of everything that really puts you in your place.

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Traveling Realities

“Think of what I’m saying. We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night.” We Can Work It Out The Beatles 

This will be a quick one but it’s something I wanted to share. Not everything is perfect and I like for people to know the not so happy things as well as the happy ones. That is what keeps things real and genuine.

Traveling obviously is a big adventure and there are thrills that are beyond the norm so of course that’s why we travel. However, traveling is not without some sort of difficulty. Unless you’re traveling alone you are bound to have mishaps or unhappy moments with those who accompany you.

Let me first explain the relationships and then I will explain the living arrangement during our time here in Washington. My sister and brother, by blood, are my half siblings. We share the same mother but not the same father. However, there has never been a time where I have felt them to be a, “half” sibling. We are all a family and all I have ever known are them. My father IS their father and he is all they have ever known of a father. They were very young when he came into their lives. With that being said, my brother and sister connected with their biological father’s family around 2008. It opened up a whole new world for them and they connected with a family they never knew. They gained so much from that experience, especially my sister.

My sister moved here to Aberdeen (my mother’s hometown), and currently stays with her uncle until she can become settled. He has been kind enough to let me and my mother and father stay here during our visit. Altogether, there are 8 people who are currently living in Ken’s house. LOL that’s A LOT of people: Myself, my mom, my dad, Evy (my sister), Ken, Rayann (my niece), Hayley (my niece) and Ken’s daughter Kaycee. There are four bedrooms but the house, for the most part is quite small (I’m not sure of the square footage) and there is only one usable shower. So I hope you can kind of visualize what we’re working with.

This leads me to the “mishaps” and “unhappy moments”. I would say that it was difficult traveling with my mom and dad, but that would be a lie. I love them immensely and they really don’t do anything that would warrant too much irritation or frustration. I, on the other hand can be a “pill” (southern term for cranky or unhappy). I can’t really tell you why, but I suppose certain things pick at my nerves or have a tendency to annoy me? So I will say that some of that frustration is due on my part. However, I realize when I’m doing it so I attempt to bring my irritations to halt and commence to be easier to get along with. But this is all normal and if you’re expecting to get along with everyone you’re traveling with all the time I think you may be living in a dream world, or you’ve just been really lucky.

When we initially arrived at Ken’s house, there were many stresses that each person in the house was facing (minus us). My sister, Ken Hayley and Rayann were all finishing up the end of their school semester; Rayann with High School, Evy and Kenny with college and Hayley with 9th grade. Emotions were high and adjusting to the housing dynamic was rough! I can tell you that some words were exchanged and tempers flared. You must also take into consideration that everyone in this family is HIGHLY opinionated. No one is leaving without stating their opinions. Myself included. 😉

It definitely took about 2 weeks to REALLY become adjusted with everything: the sleeping arrangements, social dynamic of the house, friends and family coming over and meeting them, functions etc etc. By the way, my sleeping arrangement is currently with 5 early twenties-ish British boys in a slightly small room. I’m talking about this band “One Direction”. They are currently the favorite band of my 14 yr old niece Hayley, of who’s room I’m currently inhabiting. They are literally ALL OVER her walls. They look at me every night as I go to sleep and I can’t help but feel a little…intruded on? They’re starring at me constantly. It’s so creepy.

I know everyone sees all of the really great and happy wonderful things that we’re doing and they ARE happy and wonderful! We’re having a blast, don’t get me wrong, but no travel is without some sort of discomfort or frustration. So we definitely have had our trials since we’ve been here but it worked itself out and everyone is good to go. 🙂