Saturday, June 29, 2013

Drive-In Movie Night

Did you know that in 1933 a man named Richard Hollingshead invented the very first drive-in movie theater? He was inspired by his love of cars and movies but more importantly by his mother's struggle to sit comfortably in traditional movie theater seats.

The Hamlins would like to say Thank You Richard.

Dan and I have been fans of the drive-in throughout our marriage. Mostly when the boys were younger and we were way to poor to be paying a sitter and for a date night. Why not kill two birds with one stone and let the kids fall asleep in the "car bed" while we watch a newly release movie? By the way a "car bed" is where you lay all the seats down in your car, drag the futon cushion out to the car, top with lots of blankets and pillows... voila! you have yourself a "car bed". These are also awesome for long trips driving through the night.

Last night we decided to go to the drive-in to see Monster's University and Fast and Furious 6. This time we decided to call our peeps to join us and tailgate beforehand. Excellent idea Camper Dan!!

Melody 49 Drive-In
This being Dan's old stomping grounds, he can safely say that nothing has changed over the past forty years.

Same bathroom
That's ok because we are there for the comradery and non- high def film. But before we begin, we started this party off with firing up the grill!
Here are a few pics of the pregame fun!
We loaded our car up with the grill and packed the cooler to set up camp at the drive-in.

Look at all this summer fun!

Rachel and Lyn. What's in that red solo cup?

Look at this place! It's a an ADHD person's dream place to see a movie!

With five carloads lined up and the trunks popped open, the kids had a blast running around, passing the football, and jumping in and out of everyone's cars finding the right seat for the show.

Stranded at the drive-in, branded a fool?

I think not!

Two thumbs up to this family summer fun!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thoughts and Tips from Camper Dan

1. No matter how much money you have set aside, saved, or even stolen for gas.... it's not enough. Steal more.

2. During our travels we met many kinds of people.... many cultures...... many ethnicites. I have been reaffirmed that assholes come in every color.

3. As the operator/driver you will be asked to travel to many different places, do many different things... things you might not want to do. For example.... The Corn Palace, be prepared for it, practice your smile in the mirror prior to your trip.

4. Going down a mountain is a hell of a lot worse than going up. Every time.

5. Mapquest lies. It's not always the fastest route.

6. Embrace your second amendment right. Always travel packing some heat because you know everyone in Wyoming is... case in point... Bob.

7. I yell at my kids at home when they are on the computer or playing video games for hours on end, I know you do too. In the car, driving ten hours a day, its not so bad, let them play, it will save your sanity.

8. Campgrounds are never as nice as their website's. Ever.

9. In 4360 miles there were a lot of other drivers out there, sometimes you just have to give them the "one finger salute". It's even funnier when your kids do it with you.

10. The Missouri River looks exactly like the Great Miami River, don't go out of your way to see it.... no matter which fricking explorer used it to travel this great nation.

As the driver during this trip, it was an eye opening experience traveling with Katie. The fun facts and unconfirmed knowledge of geography, geology, topography, zoology, American history, and any and all other "ologies"- is always a treat enjoyed by no one. Buffy and Lindsey know where I am coming from.

Finally, sometimes you just have to put the "FU" in fun.

If anyone is interested in a 2014 travel trailer let me know. I know a guy who will give you a good deal.

Just kidding Kate.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Carnivals.... Family Fun For All

The boys and I went to the Fenwick Bishop Catholic School Carnival.

There is something about carnivals.... the smell of funnel cakes, the thrill of the rides that may or may not have passed inspection, or the crowds they draw. This family gets excited when we see those daring rides, lights flashing, as if it is beckoning us to join the fun.

Zero Gravity... you know it!
The Scrambler..... yes please!
Giant slide you get to fly down on a potato sack that I'm guessing thousands of strangers have sat in before you..... sign me up!

Nothing beats a carnival, packed with people, on a ninety degree day.

Carnies or thrill ride operators just don't get enough recognition for the job they do.

Once I saw a kid throw up on the Screamin' Demon... you know the one that looks like a little roller coaster and travels faster and faster as you scream while it plays only the best rock music? Those thrill ride operators got to work like it was nobody's business, spraying that vomit with a hose in like... two minutes. The ride was open before all the tickets were collected and parents realized their kids were just a smidge too short and had to reluctantly join the ride with their super excited child in tow.

Remember how we all used to walk on our tippy toes trying to stretch our height ensuring us a spot on the "death cage" ride?? Your like, what? I always walk this way...

They are modern day heroes. We place the safety of our most precious little people in their hard working callused hands. 

I hope this guy didn't sprain his calf on this ride. Wouldn't that be ironic.



Jack on the spaceship ride. Worth every penny of those three tickets at $1.50 each. 

Thanks carnival. 

Ellie loves the scrambler!

Isn't it great how $10 gets you two full rides and one ticket short of your third?! 

Way to go carnival corporation! Way to go!

The Williams family feeling the love at the Fenwick Bishop Carnival 2013.

Carnie food is the best! 
What about those cake walks?? In your mind you know the right thing to do is go to the grocery, buy a ninety-three cent cake mix and tub of icing, bake it and call it a day. But noooooo.... the cake walk is the place to be! Usually after about $10.00 of playing you walk away with a plate full of half melted cookies and a huge grin on your face. You walk buy others and think, that's right, I won these cookies...I am the King of the Cake Walk... 

Funnel Cakes! The #1 fun food of carnivals.

And just in case you've torn off too many beer tickets you have two options:


Or #2

Doesn't number two sound better?

It doesn't matter what the reason, what time of year, or whose church is hosting the carnival. We will be coming back. Every year.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 17- Troy, Ohio


We did it.

We traveled a total of 4360 miles across eleven states.

The green line is the route we traveled, not counting the times where I fell asleep and Dan got off track for a bit...

We've seen many different landforms, walked in glacier fed rivers, climbed mountains, and hiked where men and women from history once roamed looking for a better life. 

The last leg home from Mulberry Grove, IL to Troy, OH took a little over five hours. As Camper Dan drove, I read this blog aloud and we reminisced and laughed at all the mishaps, the people we met along the way, and the incredible things we saw. 

There's not one "favorite" that comes to mind because its the culmination of this trip that's made it the best. 

There wasn't one time where I missed our larger home or felt like I needed something bigger. I missed the people from home and wanted you all to be on this trip with us. Often the boys would see something and say, "Mom! Jack and Noah would love climbing these falls!" or "Look mom, wouldn't Kendall and Lilly love this art stuff?" and "That water slide is the perfect size for Ellie!" 

They named each of you as we explored one place to the next. 

I know I've praised Camper Dan in many blog posts but he's what made this trip possible. Always making us feel safe and up for a challenge, Dan took care of stuff. All of the hard work was him. He drove every single mile without complaint. He pulled over at every sightseeing touristy trap, he kept an open mind and open wallet. 

The boys were great too. Real troopers. At the ages of thirteen and eleven they are still kids and do fun kid things but they are old enough to help out and get our jokes. They are hilarious and kept us laughing with their impersonations of Bob the Grizz Hunter, me when saying things like- topography and caldera.... and all the mini history lessons along the way and of course impersonating Camper Dan... boys this is America.... for godsake put your flip flops on! Do you know how many truckers have stood in this bathroom?! Max go to the bathroom with your brother.... because I said so... don't you know truck stops are notorious for rape?!

We are thankful for this trip and coming home is bittersweet. 

I usually don't collect anything, but for this trip I bought one of those maps you sometimes see on the sides of campers. As you travel through the states you get to place a sticker on the map.

Wild West Tour 2013
Our adventures in camping are not over... I feel like we really are just beginning. There is talk about getting that white water rafting ride in sometime this summer. Also we are curious about the New England states. We have lots more expeditions in mind!
Thank you for traveling with us on our trip! We hope you enjoyed our stories. Also I have a parking pass for Mount Rushmore, good for a year... a $15.00 saving.... just putting that out there, and no mom I am not putting it on Craigslist!
Joy to the World and Peace on Earth!
With much love from our home to yours,
The Hamlin Family

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 16- Diving through Missouri and Illinois


That's how I'd describe today. 

This is the part of vacation I dreaded, knew was coming, but did not look forward to at all. 

Today we started on the first day of our drive home. We left Grand Island at 0700. 

We went from Nebraska, into Iowa for a very brief time (thank God), and crossed into...


No one cares. 

I say, " Look boys! We are in Missouri!"

No one looks up, no one says a word, no one cares.... 

That's fine because I'm still interested in America. I don't let them drag me down. I still yell out, "Look! It's the Missouri River! Did you know the Lewis and Clark traveled down this very river to explore and chart this great nation of ours?!!"

No one cares. 

I say this each time we cross the Missouri River, three in all. 

No one cares. 

Then I start telling Fun Facts about Lewis and Clark's great expedition. Dammit we are standing in the place these great men once stood with nothing but a heart full of determination and a journal!

No one cares. 

We stop at a rest station for a quick lunch in the camper and back on the road we go. 

St. Louis is not much fun to drive through around rush hour. 

Check out the suckers on the other side! 

Also I'd like to point out that the drivers of St. Louis are not camper friendly on the highway. After about five minutes of driving with our turn signal on, some jerk driver finally lets Camper Dan change lanes. When Camper Dan gives a wave to say thanks, the thug driver hung his head out of his window and yelled at us. I think he thought we gave him the finger or something. 

I guess when you raise your hand while driving, it's just assumed in St. Louis that your flying the bird. 

We finally cross into...

The birthplace of Abe Lincoln! 

The boys remind me that the last time I took them to "a birthplace" of something it sucked. I remind them now that we are east of the Missouri River we are no longer a family that cusses and I can still shove a bar of soap down their throat... 

It's been about 600 miles in a car with two boys, a dog, pulling a camper. The boys want to push through to Troy but having that "mother's instinct" I know that would be a recipe for disaster. 

I find a nice campground right off I-70.

Cedarbrook Campground.

I have an awesome little app that shows me where campgrounds are located relative to where we are at any given time. It's great. It also rates them based on their amenities, restrooms, facilities, etc. I have been using this app our entire trip and I will say it's very handy to have when "word of mouth" at a gas station just doesn't feel right.

So I find Cedarbrook Campground in Mulberry Grove, Illinois.

I love it. I love that it is right off the interstate, easy to get to. I love the grounds. They are well manicured. Mostly I love the people here. The nicest owners and the nicest fellow campers. We met an older couple from Springfield, OH. She is a retired teacher who also taught 3rd grade. We also met a family from D.C. with two kids. The boys played Marco Polo in their very clean pool.

This place feels like a campground you'd see in a movie. It's very quaint and homey. We are excited to spend our last night of vacation here.

Pool Fun!



Tonight we are going to spend some time roasting marshmallows and making camper pies while we sit around the campfire telling funny stories from our trip and enjoying our last stop on vacation.

Oh Yeah!!!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 15- Grand Island, Nebraska

After sleeping in, Dan and I decide to run to Walmart and stock up on much needed provisions while the boys continue sleep in. 

We are out of Oatmeal Creme Pies, Starcrunch, Twizzlers, and laundry detergent..... we are almost "truly" camping! 

Walking out of Walmart, this is what we see..... ahhhh hell.... 

Cart on car

Camper Dan was pretty pissed when he saw that cart.  After a thorough inspection, and realizing that all of those scratches and dings are pre-existing, we decided to gas up for the day. 

Let me tell you about the Pump and Pantry.... it's awesome. Gas at $3.36 and Cinnabon??? These corn-loving huskers rock! Hey Ohio... this is how you do it! 

Once back to unload the groceries we decide to head to....


Island Oasis Water Park! We'll take four tickets to a kickass good time please. 

The Hamlins give this place two thumbs up! With six super fast water slides, a wave pool, lazy river, and a "wussy land" ( you know....for the little ones) this place is just what we need. The weather is hot, high 80s and I'm trying to come back with a tan as my souvenir! 

Max catching some air!

Rope climbing! Well kinda....

Wave pool fun? Yes please!

Relaxing in the Lazy River..... ahhhhh

I spent most of the day with my happy butt in a lounge chair soaking up the Nebraska sun. 

I've gotta be honest.... I prejudged Nebraska. I thought, here we go again with another suckass Iowa drive. Especially after frequently seeing this mode of  transportation....

Not only that but a lot of the roads are dirt! Not just back roads but some majorly traveled ones. 


The highways are paved but as soon as you get off an exit, it's a dirt road.

All of that judging is for not because this city saves their money for fun, and we thank you for that Nebraska! 

After a days worth of fun in the sun we head back to the camper. I do another three loads of laundry (Fun fact: travel with a boat load of quarters when you decide to man up and take this trip. That's right I said it.)

Boys=Laundry. It's simple math. 

While waiting for the laundry to finish I text Dan and ask him to please light the grill and boil some water for the potatoes. I know the boys are "starving" (they are always "starving"). Dan replies, "That's too much work. Lets order pizzas."

So we did. And it was delivered to our campsite!! 

Pizza delivered to your site.... only at KOA! 

After dinner I tell the boys that we are 25 miles away from the birthplace of Kool-Aid! How can you be this close to something so historically significant and not go??!! I grew up on Kool-Aid... grape, cherry, lemon-lime, orange, raspberry, strawberry, the flavor choices were endless! 

If you had a plastic pitcher, a cup of sugar, and a 10 cent package of delicious powder.... then you had childhood memories. And everyone had a Kool-Aid pitcher.... you know you are picturing it right now! 

Remember how it would stain your hands? We even used it to dye our hair funky colors! 

Remember, Your mama's so fat that when she wears red kids say, "Hey! It's Kool-Aid!"

We all remember the Kool-Aid man randomly bursting through walls of children's homes and proceeding to make a batch of Kool-Aid saying, "Oh, Yeah!" We were all so jealous... 

Kool-Aid. Does it get any better than that?!

We load up the car, plug the address into Mapquest and head to Hastings, Nebraska- the birthplace of Kool-Aid. 

The whole car ride I'm so giddy with excitement to see this place. Maybe they have a Kool-Aid "bar" where we can order little "shots" of Kool-Aid. I'm so excited for my boys to see this! I've decided that when we get home I'm going to start buying Kool-Aid, it's so American.

We finally get there 30 minutes later and this is what we see:

The building where Kool-Aid was first made. 

Looks pretty kool... It's in a very rundown part of town. Dan referred to it as the ghetto. It's hard to see from this picture but these windows are covered with facts about Kool-Aid and Edward Perkins, the inventor.

As we get closer we see that you can't get into the building because its a parking garage. A parking garage.... in the birthplace of Kool-Aid. A guy actually opened the garage door and drove inside and parked his car... while I had my face pressed up to the glass to see if there was a Kool-Aid sampling center inside. 

I was so disappointed. 

And even more so because I was certain this was going to be our official Christmas card! 

Wishing you a "Kool" Christmas season. Oh Yeah!

Season Greetings,
The Hamlin Family

There was no one around to take a family picture so Dan took this shot. 

Back in the car we went, 30 minutes back to our camper. 

Other than the huge letdown of Hastings, the birthplace of Kool-Aid, we had a pretty good day today. 

Much needed. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 14- Driving through Wyoming and Nebraska

We may have hit our vacation limit. The boys are ready to come home and I think it's because they know we are heading back this week.

This morning we wanted to get an early start,
1. Because we will be losing an hour, crossing into central time and
2. We don't really know where we are going other than east. 

I took a look at the weather map and saw that Kansas is calling for a small chance of tornadoes. Let's be honest... "chances" are that if we step foot in that state we're going to cross paths. Tommy (not Big Tom, Dan's dad... or baby Tommy, our son.... but Uncle Tommy the badass that took this trip on his Harley) called and let us know that Colorado Springs, which would have been our destination for today, is on fire. 

Of course it is. 

We pull out of Rock Springs, the city of no fun water recreations, at 0715. 

Within the first five minutes this happens:

Tommy: I'm going to throw up.

Me: Shit. Let me find a bag. Max you get back in the third row and let Tommy lay down in the second row. 

Max (clearly annoyed and with a huge sigh): I don't want to get back there. 

I usually have plastic Walmart bags in the car for trash or this exact moment. I've been using them throughout this trip and forgot to restock the car. I grab an almost empty bag of potato chips out of our "snack bag". 

Me: Oh ok Max, we'll just let Tommy throw up all over the back. Awesome. Thanks for being so understanding.... 

Max: FINE.... I'll get in the back.....

Me: Oh how magnanimous of you Max. Wow. Here Tommy, throw up in the chip bag until daddy can pull the car over. 

We pull the car over to the side of the road and grab some bags. Tommy never did throw up but I'm ready just in case. 

See.... feeling much better. Oh and his hat? That was purchased back in Montana. Inspired by Bob the Grizz Hunter's badger hat, Tommy decided on this eagle. We now call him Tommy Eagle Eye... 

We really have no idea where we are going. I did a google search and found a waterpark in Grand Island, Nebraska. 

We must end our vacation on a high note. 

About 300 miles into our journey we decide to pull off at a rest station for lunch. It's been a little over five hours in the car and we will probably drive another 300 miles. 

Lunch at a rest stop

People that is pushing it to the limit but the farther we go the longer we stay in one place. 

Some of the views from the car:

Southwestern Wyoming

A view of the Rocky Mountains!

Here's a little Fun Fact: we have driven about 3400 miles so far on our vacation. My car kicks ass with 110,000 miles! 

We finally cross into....


I'm not sure if it's "the good life", we'll be the judge of that.... At least they don't claim "the best life in the world"...

After seven hours of driving I decide to kick the boys out of the middle seat so I can take a little nap. Watching Dan try to keep our rig on the road through the whipping Nebraska winds exhausts me! 

I awake about an hour later to the worst foulest smell. 

Me: Did someone shit their pants?!!

Max, Tommy, and Dan, in unison: Not me...

It's Nebraska. It stinks. Like shit. Not all of it but some parts. 

Nebraska stinks
Nebraska stinks

Nebraska stinks

This was taken after about nine hours in the car. The boys had a pretty good  system setting up their "home office" and sharing the one charger for laptops. 

Mobile Home Office
After about 11 hours and 20 minutes we reach our destination of Grand Island, NE. 

We found a KOA and pulled in at 1940. We are seriously "the best in the world" at unpacking our shit and setting up camp. 

You can record that somewhere. The best. 

With a little under an hour until The Chuckwagon Cafe closes we order dinner, take showers and call it a night. 

It's a long day and we are hellbent on finding a proper waterpark. One where we can "bend" a few rules and have a little fun! 
It's an uneventful day but we are here safe and sound... and just a bit closer to home...
Tomorrow we are going to tear it up Nebraska style!!!