We now have a 16 month old international traveler in our house...cool! I know adults that have never gotten a passport or traveled out of the country, so I decided to get her passport back in May, in the event that we decided to go somewhere cool. And cool it was! Lets start at the beginning... we were headed from Northern VA to Philly, and our directions estimated just under 3 hours for the ride. All was smooth and we left on Sunday July 9 around 8:30am. DC traffic was actually fine, and surprisingly, so was Baltimore traffic. Ruby was napping a bit, and Brock and I were excited to get on the road again. I was stoked to check out the Magic Garden in Philly and let Ruby wander around all the color and art. About 1 hour out of Philly, in Northern MD, I saw some red on my google maps on 95. I found an alternate route, and told Brock that we could avoid it if he took the next exit in a mile, but at that point, it was still the same amount of time to Philly going on 95, or detouring. He made quite possibly one of the worst decisions in his adult life, and decided to stay on 95. Friends: I WAS A PARKING LOT. I complain on here SO MUCH about traffic, so I apologize for that, but it never seemed to be an issue when we traveled around the Pacific Northwest. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we can't escape it, no matter what. So I'll complain a bit more, and get it out of my system, then tell you about the trip. It took us 1 hour and 40 minutes to go from the toll booths in Northern MD to the exit after the toll booths: about 0.3 of a mile. It was TERRIBLE. I had to pee (duh), Ruby was in the car far longer than we planned, and needed to poop, so was getting pretty cranky, and there was NOTHING we could do. The road ended up being closed, and EVERY CAR HAD TO EXIT. Needless to say, Brock learned his lesson. I didn't have to say "I told you so" but I'm pretty sure I did anyway. Because of that nightmare, we ended up skipping Philly, and going right to Trenton, NJ (after a pit stop, of course). Ya'll know how I'm trying to check the capitals off my list! This trip was quite productive in the capital department of my bucket list! Trenton was... in New Jersey... so you know, fine. Saw it, done, now I don't know that I ever need to go back to New Jersey... if you have a reason for me to, let me know! Ruby was SO happy to be out of the truck when we made it there!
Camper parked in down town Trenton, NJ.
We ended up in a Walmart in Monroe, NY that night. It was a pretty rough day to start our week long road trip, and we were all in pretty grumpy spirits. Walmart, while free and abundant, is tough to camp in with Ruby, because she needs room to play. Mom of the year over here let her wander around the parking lot (the back part, with very few cars!) for a while. Makes it tough, but there really were no convenient campgrounds around. We survived.... even when I had to pee at midnight, and there was a creepy, shirtless man standing outside our camper about 30 feet away. Trust me: I held it then. Yikes. Campgrounds for the rest of the trip, please! However, I did have a super easy and tasty dinner ready for that night, and through all the bad moods, I must mention it. I bought pre-sliced zucchini noodles from Wegmans (CHEATING, I know! I didn't want to bring the slicer in the camper. Wegmans: thanks for the convenience!) and had pre-cooked ground beef that I had frozen to save for a road trip dinner. Brock cooked up the zoodles, added the beef to warm it up, and covered it in a jar of marinara sauce. SO GOOD. The pre-cooked beef made it so easy too!
Anyway, we survived Walmart, and packed up the next morning to head to Albany, NY and then to Montpelier, VT. I've been to Albany many times, but never had a picture, and it was right on the way. Plus, it was about 90 minutes, and we knew Ruby would need to stop and get out and wiggle. Side note about food: most of the time breakfast for us adults is oatmeal in the pre-packaged little disposable cups. Super easy. And we bring raisins, walnuts, or peanut butter to add to it. Ruby eats ham steak and green beans, (breakfast is her best meal, so we get all the greens in we can!) and then has fruit or oatmeal with us, often having fruit AND oatmeal. Easy, and quick. We reached Albany with minimal issue, and the capital building is BEAUTIFUL. If you get the chance, stop in, go through security, and check it out. The architecture is incredible. And the grounds are lovely: a fountain, benches, some food trucks, and plenty of room for Ruby to explore and move.
After a bathroom break and lunch (sandwiches for adults, and lunchmeat, milk, and lara bar for Ruby) we got back on the road. Our goal was to go the whole 3 hours to Montpelier without stopping: just as hard for me as it was for Ruby! Luckily she napped a bit, and we made it. Montpelier is TINY, but so cool! Vermont has a great west-coast vibe, and Montpelier was full of tiny shops, bike lanes, and friendly people. There wasn't even security to get into the capital building! We stopped in there for a bathroom break, and their bathrooms are INCREDIBLE. Whoa. What a beautiful place to pee! Ruby definitely was sick of her parents, and wouldn't pose with us for our family photo, so we just let her go off and explore... it was pretty empty around the capital, and the resulting photo makes us laugh.
Here Papa made Montpelier, VT a bit more fun...
We headed out to Onion River Campground, a mere 15 minute drive from downtown Montpelier. It was a private campground, and the only sites they had came with water and electric, so it was $30 for the night. But wow, was it incredibly peaceful camped near the rushing river. As far as bugs go... Brock bought me some Mosquito Bands, and I stayed bug bite free! I wore one on my ankle, and one on my wrist. Still used the homemade bug spray on Ruby, and she stayed bug free too. Brock cooked up dinner again: steak, asparagus, and sweet potato, all on the grill outside. Turned out DELISH. Put asparagus and sweet potato on foil, and was easy clean up. While he cooked, Ruby and I played a little bit on the playground next to our campsite, but Brock was worried about bees (he was stung), and so we ended up going to play a bit in the river. Ruby and I found a calm spot, and she stood there and threw rocks in the water. If you've ever met my child, you would just shake your head and laugh when I tell you that somehow she "fell in" to the river, and she ended up soaking wet by the time we went back for dinner. After dinner, Ruby and I went to get our complimentary shower (free with camp site) and I got her all clean, handed her out to Brock, and showered myself. Not terrible bathrooms at all, but only one working female toilet. We got Ruby settled, and had a good night until about 3am, when I got out to pee. Generally I don't use the bathrooms in the middle of the night, because I don't like walking far away by myself, so I wake Brock, and pop a squat outside. I came in, and that fool says to me in his sleep induced stupor "Did you check for ticks?" WHAT?!?! Of course I didn't check for ticks! I walked outside, peed, and came back inside. How am I supposed to check for ticks? Should I turn on lights at 3am to check? I, a tiny bit, let him have it, but then we went back to sleep... and I proceeded to tease him about it the rest of the trip.
The next morning had some drama, because after breakfast, Ruby and I were playing on the playground again, bee warning from Brock completely forgotten. She climbed up the ladder all by herself, and got settled at the top of the slide.... and at the bottom, landed in the yellow jacket nest! I grabbed her, and in my haste, she dropped her spoon. Side note: my child is in a stage where she LOVES spoons. She wants them all the time. To play with. To eat with. To carry around. So when her spoon fell, she lost it a bit, and started wiggling in my arms to get it. While she wiggled, I was trying and failing to get the bee off of my arm, and getting stung, and trying to keep the bees off of her... and she fell. Right out of my arms. On the sand, about 3 feet, but still. Seriously: I DROPPED MY KID AFTER LETTING HER SLIDE INTO A BEEs NEST. Head slap, major mom fail. Good thing kids are resilient. By the time we got back to the truck, she was screaming pretty good, and it seemed she got her very first bee sting, right on her little nose. Good news: no major bee allergy! Once settled, we got started on the road to Canada. Pit stop in Northern VT about 30 miles south of the border for a few groceries and gas, and of course, some maple candy. Maple candy, you ask? YES. I get it every time I'm in Vermont, and it is MY FAVORITE. Brock and Ruby had never had it, so we shared a few pieces. I just nibble it off, bit by bit, and let the creamy maple goodness melt in my mouth. Please hold, while I go and have a piece, since we were smart enough to bring some home. Here is a photo of Ruby when she had her first taste...
Anyway, we made it to the Canadian border, via US route 89N. There was NO line (very different from crossing into Vancouver when we lived on west coast!) but they did end up searching us b/c we said we had bear spray. Took about 15 minutes, and we were good to go!
We traveled up route 55 nord, going 100km/h. It was fun to be in another country and work on guessing the language (I never learned any french before, but Brock took it in high school, like 15 years ago, and Spanish has its similarities). It was also cool to think of our driving in terms of kilometers, instead of miles. It was easy enough to navigate using our paper map and this app that Brock downloaded on his iPad. We had a rest stop for me to pee, Ruby to stretch and play, and lunch (sandwiches again... easy and quick), and then I drove. I drove the truck with camper all the rest of the way (another 2-ish hours) through the Quebec City bypass. With all its traffic and construction. OMG. But we made it, around 3:30, to our camp site at Camping de la Joie, about 20 minutes out of the city. Whoa. Talk about awesome camping. AMAZINGLY clean bathrooms, beautiful sites, and it was $48.20 Canadian dollars. People: GO TO CANADA NOW. The exchange rate is in our favor, and that awesome camping turned out to be like $37. YESSSSSSS. So we parked, got out and played a bit, cleaned up, and went into Quebec City for dinner.
I had done a bit of blog reading before this trip, and found a recommendation for Chez Boulay, a local, high end restaurant with nordic cuisine. It was SO SO SO GOOD. It seems like I'm yelling at you, with all the capital letters, but seriously... incredible. Brock had venison steak served on venison liver meat loaf and red cabbage and potatoes, and I had the scallops with clam milk over vegetable risotto. Holy moly. And we got a soup to start, to help curb Ruby's appetite, a creamed parsnip soup, which was out of this world. Parsnip soup: out of this world?? YES. The only trouble was... it was a high end restaurant, and Ruby was fast approaching her bedtime, so we felt like she was a ticking time bomb waiting to erupt with crying and fussing because she was bored and tired. Fortunately, she held out for us, and we ended our evening by beating the rain to the camp site, showers, and being cozy in the camper while it down poured. That four wheel camper is solid: not a drop leaked in!
The next day we went into the city, grabbed wonderful drip coffee at a local joint...
... and found old town Quebec, with all the super old buildings and beautiful, 400+ year old architecture. Pretty touristy, but pretty nonetheless. We had some croissants, and strolled along, looking for postcards to send to friends. Brock wanted to see the citadel, but we ended up running low on time, wanting to start the almost 3 hour drive to Montreal by noon. We had to settle for some of these views of the city instead.
We bought some fancy popcorn, and hit the road around 12:15, riding along 20 quest for many many kilometers. About 2 hrs 45 min later, we made it to our campground in Montreal, an RV park called Sogerive in a marina, which was $29.99 for a spot with no electric or water. No showers at this campground, and we discovered that the public restrooms are not open 24 hours a day: I went to use them between 7-8pm, and then again around 7:30am, and they were open that evening, but not in the morning. Logic leads me to believe they are open 8am-8pm, but I'm not 100% sure, so if you're tent camping, be prepared to pop a squat. Overall, a clean camp, but quite chilly, because it was on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River.
We headed into the city for dinner around 4:30, and ended up in a Montreal neighborhood, Outremont, to eat smoked meat at Lester's Deli. Apparently, one of the "things" of Montreal is smoked meat, and this was a recommended place I read via blog, and it was SO GOOD. We should have gotten Ruby her own sandwich, as much as she ate!!
The waitress then gave us a recommendation to walk to a cupcake/gelato place, which turned out to be about 10 blocks away. Sunny, 72 degrees... a 10 block walk was delightful.
Post gelato, we headed back to camp, and Ruby and I shared our cupcake before bedtime. The next morning, we headed into the city again, to get coffee at Le Moineau Masque, which I mostly picked because of the adorable bird on their cups. Good coffee for sure. I sure do wish our area had some coffee other than Starbucks, Panera, and Dunkin' Donuts!
We then went down town, along the water front, for some more beautiful architecture, stuff you just don't see in the USA. We struggled to find the touristy part, which gave me mixed feelings... I prefer non-touristy sections of cities for sure, but how was I supposed to buy a postcard or stickers for the truck or a christmas ornament? Oh well!
We left about noon, and headed back for the USA, and Brock and I agreed: we would love to revisit Montreal, but didn't feel the need to go back to Quebec City. Border took a bit longer this time, but we made it to Burlington, VT in about 2 hours. Walked around a bit on Church Street and saw the adorable shops and restaurants.
We had more places to go, so didn't get any food, but just wanted to check out the vibe of the biggest "city" in Vermont. We totally dug it, and would go back again. Next we headed to Lake Bomoseen, a tiny lake in the southwest corner of Vermont, where I have family that owns a lake house there. We had plans to spend the next two nights there and visit with them!
Upon arrival, my Aunt Judy greeted us, with my Aunt Carol, cousin Emma, and Uncle Rick due to arrive later that evening. We gave Ruby a snack, and then she went to bed and was asleep by 7pm. We ate amazing homemade lasagna, with fresh salad and bread. Mmmmm..... The next day was kind of lazy, but relaxing and just what we needed. Ruby got to take a solid 2 hour nap midday, and we went for a boat ride out on the lake: she loved it!
We went out to eat that night, and while the three of us loved our dinner, my extended family wasn't wild about it, since it was a new restaurant in place of their familiar older place. Ruby's favorite part was the cats: Judy, Rick and Emma have 3 cats that they bring to the lake when they come, and Ruby would see one and scream-meow at it while trying to get it to take a toy from her. Poor cats... I bet they were glad to see us off on Saturday morning!
Heading home Saturday 7/15, we decided to avoid I-95, and instead went west to Scranton, PA, and down I-81. We camped at Locust Lake State Park: lovely! $30 for a site, with free hot showers. Quiet, private, and a lake for boats (with sandy beach front play areas too). If you're ever traveling in east-central PA and need a place to stop off of I-81, we definitely recommend this place. It was a dark campground with minimal lights, so take a flashlight!
My instagram post: We get to stop and pop... no tent necessary! Kudos to all you tent campers out there because I could never do it!
The next day, we finally made it home, around 3pm. We made a pit stop halfway in Gettysburg and had a picnic lunch with Nanee and Hop, who drove up to meet us. Ruby was VERY excited to see them!! Fried chicken, watermelon, chips, and a yummy homemade banana bar that Ruby scarfed down... what a great visit! We took Route 15 to Route 66 to get home to avoid 95, and while maybe a few extra miles, it was definitely worth it! Ruby slept for over 12 hours Sunday night, and was so glad to be back in her own crib! Plus, all her toys were super fun again, since it had been a week since she'd seen them.
Quick thought: this trip cost us about $500 for the week: food purchased on trip, camp ground fees, and gas. That is an expensive trip for us, because we ate out in Canada and we typically don't do that. $500 for a week of travel isn't too bad! I will try to add approximate trip costs from here on out. This does NOT include the cost of the camper :-).
I'm not going lie: this was a tough trip, especially at first. I felt like I was round the clock Ruby care, and didn't have a break while Brock did all the camper stuff. He also is pretty OCD about he camper, and is kind of particular... which frustrated me, b/c I wanted to be on vacation. We talked, and he made a huge effort to let me do more stuff with camper, and that REALLY helped. He's for sure the best husband ever! We have 8 days home, then off to our next adventure! Thanks for reading! :-)
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