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Location, location, location! You cannot get a closer stay near a National Park then from this Harpers Ferry KOA. You could walk or ride your bike here even though we chose to drive, because we have our NPS annual pass allowing us free parking. Plus, our time was limited so we wanted to make the most of the hours we had in the park!

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West Virginia was our 31st state we hit on this trip! We finally committed to putting our USA map (which we bought from the St. Louis West KOA) on the back of our RV. Maybe we won’t be selling our home on wheels once we get back to Arizona after all? Hmm….We are growing a little attached I think. The kids had fun taking turns putting on the various state stickers onto the map and celebrating just how far we’ve come.

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This was our 5th Recreational Adventures owned KOA that we have stayed at. Recreational Adventures Campgrounds owns and operates ten premier KOA campground and resort facilities in the United States. Their properties are always busy on the weekends as they offer lots to keep the campers busy having fun. The Harpers Ferry Grapes and Grinds is adorable as it is a replica of John Brown’s Fort. It’s always fun to go to the wine tastings they offer and enjoy a specialty coffee drink in the mornings as well.

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Did you say free pancakes? Our family is there. Every time. We can’t help ourselves.  Another perk at most of the Recreational Adventures Co. campgrounds on the weekends! I can’t thank you enough for feeding my family at least one meal a day!

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This Harpers Ferry location has it’s own movie theater- the first we’ve seen along our KOA tour!

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The weekend we were here the KOA was having Civil War reenactments all day on Saturday. Our kids were not necessarily thrilled that we made them sign up to volunteer to be a part of the afternoon show. But, we try to teach our kids to be “gamers.” Just go with the flow and if someone asks you to do something and they want your help, then you just do it whether it’s cool or not. Luckily, they helped out because they were good examples to the younger kids who had trouble following the directions because of their age! Believe it or not our kids also said they learned things that they didn’t already know. Go figure. The more we put into life, the more we get out of it!!

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The highlight of our time in Harpers Ferry was learning about the Appalachian Trail.

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We spent awhile in the Appalachian Trail’s only Conservancy learning about the famous trail and earning another Junior Ranger badge.

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We really enjoyed meeting this couple who happened to come in to the Conservancy while we were there. It was fun to hear about their time on the trail and share stories of our uniquely designed travels. They were very inspiring! I love to see people out there living their lives!! Go get ’em Liver and VA! Hope to run into you one day back in the West!

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Everyone’s first question for us when it comes to us doing this trip during the school year is “Are you homeschooling then?” I explained before we left on the trip that this is the one area that caused me a bit of anxiety about taking off around the US for 7 months and pulling the kids from 6th and 7th grade. I wanted to do a relaxed curriculum focusing on obviously geography and history through our travels. Here is how we are learning at our Gettysburg, PA KOA.

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Starting off our day with a home cooked breakfast outdoors while watching our History Channel DVD on Gettysburg. I purchased many History Channel movies for the trip so we could brief the kids on areas and events that we would be experiencing.

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After breakfast and the movie, it’s time to drive to the Battlefields of Gettysburg to experience them firsthand. The kids had a wonderful 5th grade teacher who interactively taught them a lot of Civil War history so it was fun for them to see in person many of the things they had studied.

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Here at Round Top General Porter tells Morgan a story of his daughter and a famous pencil, before giving Morgan a replica herself. The kids all did the Junior Ranger books here and earned another badge as well.

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One of the kids had made this box up awhile ago and we threw change it when we remembered. I brought it in the RV before we left so that we could use it for something fun along the road. The kids had enough change to rent banana bikes, play mini golf and do some mining at the KOA when we got back from the battlefields.

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Hands down this is the best part of staying at the KOA… the time to decompress after a long day of touring historical sites! The kids can run around while Keith and I can take a walk and just breathe in the fresh air or just sit with a glass of wine. You can’t compare staying at a hotel at times like this. At most hotels, there are very limited activities for kids to do, possibly an indoor pool. At the campground, there is an abundance of outdoor fun. This is also when we can grab our moments of solitude! Back to the curriculum…

Physical Education- Never a worry about the kids getting in their physical education! You know it’s most kids favorite class of the entire day all throughout school anyway. And pictures of kids having fun outdoors are just priceless anyway!

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Science- This is the first KOA that the kids have done any gem mining. They had a lot of fun just messing in the sand and water and seeing what gems they could find. Then they were able to read on the poster what elements they had acquired.

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Math- We are doing daily math on Kahn Academy right now. It is easy to do from the iPads and the kids enjoy the challenges. Most KOA’s have good wifi which enables the kids to do some work from the campsite. Otherwise we do most of it while we are on the road driving. Not a bad environment to learn a little math before dinner!

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Homework-  The kids had to read the directions to this new game and work together to figure out how to play Carpetball while we were making dinner. They loved it and it was the first one we’ve seen at a KOA.

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I think we’re all going to miss this relaxed way of learning! Any questions on how we are road schooling throw them my way!

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Labor Day is behind us which means summer fun is over for most as kids have gone back to school across the country. Everyone that is but crazy families like ours who are choosing to roadschool. Campgrounds are much quieter and tourist crowds are minimal during the weekdays so September is the perfect time to be camping and traveling out east!

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Here in rural Pennsylvania we are getting the best of both worlds. A city experience combined with downtime at the quiet campground. This Philadelphia-Westchester KOA is a 50 minute drive into the big city. It is far from even a grocery store or even a highway.

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The kids working on their National Park Service Junior Ranger books outside Independence Hall.

I love visiting all of the major cities in our country. I am fueled by the energy of a big city! Philadelphia is an absolute historical gem. I would wander around here every day easily, if we were staying closer. We chose to hang out at the campground for our second day in the area and I’m really glad we did.

Sometimes we can get caught up in trying to fit in all of the historical sites or touring around and not take the time to just relax and be at the campground itself. I have to say, that downtime doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not used to taking time to just hang out and chill.

This trip is teaching me how important it is that we take time out to relax along our journey. The kids would never leave the campgrounds if we left it up to them! I’m so happy that this beautiful KOA afforded us opportunity for quiet time in the outdoors or we would’ve missed out on these moments…

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A quiet picnic lunch by Brandywine Creek.

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Fishing and renting canoes…

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Time for our son to inflate his raft that he bought in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and take it for a cruise along the Brandywine!

Sometimes I get nervous about not having the kids in school or on their sports teams and I wonder if we’re doing the right thing. Then we have days like this and I am reminded that this is quality of life and I am so grateful that we are doing this family trip together!

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How great that we were in Philadelphia for the 227th anniversary of the United States Constitution! It was one of those perfect days when road schooling rocked. The beautiful National Constitution Center offered free admission today so we took a train in from our KOA into the city to be a part of the celebration.

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Citizens of the United States have celebrated Independence Day and Presidents’ Day since the 1870s. In 2005, the nation began to celebrate Constitution Day also know as Citizenship Day. Constitution Day honors the day 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution. This historic date was September 17, 1787 and we were here in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to see the exact room where it took place.

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Philadelphia is an amazing city with such a past that has been wonderfully preserved for all of us.

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So proud to be an American and so grateful for our Constitution that affords us so much!

We were all looking forward to celebrating the triplets 13th birthday in New York City during this trip around the USA. Now, how do we go about doing this without spending a fortune? Five days in NYC can be very costly if you’re not careful!

Here are 13 ways we chose to celebrate becoming a teenager in the Big Apple….
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1. Stay in a Times Square Hotel.

This was the first and only time we planned to stay in a hotel and not our RV. Obviously, there is no way to stay in a motorhome in the city, so we decided it was easiest to park at the Newburgh KOA and train in. We chose to stay at the popular Marriott Marquis with our Marriott points for all five nights!

Times Square is a teens dream come true. Lights, action and shopping galore. The Marquis also has large enough rooms for a family of six with two beds plus a pull out couch. Funny how after living in an RV this hotel room seemed spacious to us.

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Our view from our room at the Marriott Marquis

2.  Get up early and get yourself on national television on The Today Show.

This means be at Rockefeller Center by 6 am and have a personal handmade sign with you! Our daughter and her cousin made a fun poster in honor of the boys birthday. It got them noticed and a segment on the Show! Way to go girls!

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3. Shop until you drop!

You cannot come to NYC without shopping unfortunately. The boys used their birthday money from their grandparents to customize some shoes at the Nike Store. We know you can customize Nike shoes online or at other Nike retail stores, but you need an appointment with a designer at Nike NYC for their special ordering area, making it a bit more special.

The customized shoes cost about $40 extra to design them over buying a rack shoe. You can even put any number or nickname on the back heels. Pretty cool and definitely right up a 13 year old’s alley.  They’ll be shipped home to the boys mid-October when they are complete. Patience is a virtue.

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4. Get sugared up at Dylan’s Candy Bar.

Shop for sweet treats on three levels at Dylan’s candy shop. Shopping along 5th Avenue is lots of fun and Dylan’s is a must for kids. One of our birthday boys surprised his little Sis by buying her this fun doughnut pillow there. Remember it is always better to give than to receive, even on your own birthday I guess!

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5. Hang out in Central Park.

Central Park is in walking distance of Dylan’s so it’s a good time to walk off that sugar, or better yet rent bikes to cover even more ground. It is a beautiful, relaxing spot amongst all the hustle and bustle of the city!

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6. Get tickets to a show that needs you in the audience.

We had originally planned to go to a Broadway performance but the shows we wanted to see, Rocky and Newsies, just ended. We decided not to spend the money for tickets to a different show, when we could go catch the semifinals of America’s Got Talent while we were here for FREE. The kids loved going to Radio City Music Hall to see one of their favorite shows and it was lots of fun to see how it all happens live and in person.

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7. Make an appearance at another TV Show spot and sugar up again.

The kids are fans of TLC’s Cake Boss show, so we had to stop at the Cake Boss Cafe in Times Square. They really wanted to go to Hoboken, NJ to see the original Carlo’s Bake Shop but this had to suffice this trip.

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8. Take a ride on THE RIDE.

THE RIDE was a highlight of our time in NYC! THE RIDE is a fun, interactive, unique way to enjoy touring a bit of the city. THE RIDE features equal parts theatrical show and immersive tour from the comfort of a moving theater coach. We had lots of laughs and really enjoyed this. We also were able to score buy one-get one free tickets this week with a promotion they were having!

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9. Navigate the Subway system.

We like for our kids to learn the ins and outs of taking public transportation whenever we are traveling in a big city. We didn’t take a single cab and rode New York’s subway system or walked everywhere we went. The kids were reading the maps, buying the tickets and telling us where to go. Learning how to travel independently is a gift in itself!

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 10. Take the ferry from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty.

New York is full of culture and educational opportunities as well. We took a day and went to visit the beautiful Lady Liberty!

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11. Pay your respects at the Sept. 11 Museum and Memorial.

It is tough to include this as part of a celebration, but it is a very important part of our time in NYC. You can read more about our visit to this area  here.

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12. Go to Escape the Room.

My parents bought us tickets for this adventure for the boys birthday. We had never heard of Escape the Room, but it seemed perfect for our family. We booked “The Home” at the midtown location and we had a ball looking for clues and trying to solve the puzzles in order to find the key that would get us out of that room. We were one step away from finding the key, but we ended up not making it out in the allotted hour! We never had so much fun being losers!

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13. Meet up with old friends for dinner at a local hotspot.

We met up with the Dazzo family for dinner at Don Antonio Pizzeria at their recommendation. It’s always great to get restaurant advice from the locals!

Where else do you like to celebrate as a family when you visit New York City?

 

 

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It is extremely easy for me to remember exactly how many years ago the tragedies of 9-11 happened. I laid in the hospital after just giving birth to our triplet sons a few days prior. The devastation has always honestly been too much for me to fathom, so I don’t think I have ever let myself feel it’s affects fully…… until yesterday.

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We have spent the past few days in New York City celebrating our boys 13th birthday and soaking in the energy of this bustling city. We planned to be here for their special day and to stay through Sept. 11 so that we could pay our respects as a family on this 13th anniversary . The Museum is not open today, so we chose to go yesterday. It is a tough, tough place to visit. I found myself suppressing my feelings most of the time as I just wanted to fall to my knees and bawl. I went between feelings of deep anger and hatred, to pride and love for our country, as I walked through the Museum and Memorials.

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I’ll be honest. It was difficult having the kids there. It was tough having to answer all of their questions while wanting to be alone with my own thoughts and feelings. I hate that this stuff even has to be explained to them. It’s so not right. I hate that they stood and watched videos of the terrorists going through security lines at our US airports and watched people jumping out of the burning buildings to their death. I hate the word hate, but I have to tell you it’s exactly what I was feeling when I was in the exhibit about al-Qaeda and the Terrorists. Sickening.

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I also felt sad that I hadn’t been here until now. It almost felt like I was cheating and just coming when everything was nice and pretty again. I actually had gone up in the Twin Towers during a high school trip to NYC. It was very surreal seeing this area without them. You definitely need to get here, if you haven’t yet. It is powerful beyond words. This day will never feel the same to me after experiencing this in person.

May we never forget the victims and the heroes of 9-11. You will forever be a part of all of us and we lift you up in honor today.

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We have spent the last week visiting Keith’s parents in Rhode Island. We had a fun day touring around Boston one of the days and now we are finishing up our weekend getaway at the Mystic, Connecticut KOA Holiday. We invited Nanny and Poppy, as well as Keith’s brother and his family, to join us at this campground that is only 45 minutes away from where they live. We wanted them to come get a taste of what our new life at the campground is really like. KOA put them in deluxe cabins close to our RV spot and we’ve had a ball walking between our different places over the weekend.

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Living on opposite coasts we don’t get to see one another as much as we would like to. Nanny and Poppy have treated us to a few different multigenerational trips together. A trip to Disneyworld, New Hampshire and on a Caribbean cruise. We have the best times on these vacations and it’s a blast for the cousins to be together! Spending a weekend away at a deluxe KOA cabin is the perfect answer for a multigenerational family getaway and here’s why:

Simple family fun together

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Quiet togetherness fishing at the pond

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It’s way more affordable than a lot of multigenerational vacations as the cabin is less expensive and much larger than most hotel rooms. You have all the amenities of home too! Family members can rent cabins right next to one another, affording opportunity for togetherness yet separate spaces for everyone!

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Cousin time!

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Carefree time to laugh and play together!

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Sharing smores over the campfire!

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I hope we can get the whole Carney crew together for another KOA weekend like this soon! Off to New York City we go….

Three months on the road. Wow. Can you even believe it? We are too far from home to even call it quits even if we wanted to! There was a point where it would still cross my mind that we could run if we wanted. We could cut straight down from South Dakota and high tail it home no problem. But, now we are in Rhode Island with 24 states and 6,000 plus miles traveled behind us. And the best part is that we’re having the time of our lives! My goal now is to post on here more frequently and to get caught up with timely posts.

Last week was very trying I have to say. Everyone said it was a part of the adventure and most of the time I believed that. I returned from the funeral to my family and an electrically dead RV. I told you I was afraid to leave my family. I felt it. As frustrating as this past week has been, I wouldn’t trade going to see Mary and her family for anything. Not even with my family injuring Ally B while I was gone.

Now we can’t be certain that anything would’ve gone differently if I were there, but I find it ironic that this happened when I wasn’t. As the family prepared our motorhome to leave Lake Placid in upstate New York, while I was on an Amtrak headed back to them, something happened to the electrical system. We could still drive her, but it would be impossible to live in it as nothing electrical worked. The Lake Placid KOA General Managers, Chip and Julie, were amazingly accommodating and we are forever grateful. They put us up in a nice cabin for that unexpected extra night there. It was fate that we had gotten stuck in their campground because they really helped diffuse everything with their kindness and wisdom. I can’t wait to make it back to their beautiful campground one day, as I didn’t get to experience anything of Lake Placid.

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In the morning we headed off to get our motorhome fixed at a shop in New Hampshire. They asked us to write nicely about them, so I won’t even go there.

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This is how we lived for almost a week. In and out of the car, hotels and cabins. We managed to pretty much stick to our original travel itinerary of visiting Vermont and Old Orchard, Maine. We just now had to do it by car. By the time Ally B was fixed and we got on the road to Rhode Island though, I’d grown exhausted of hauling things in and out of different places. I realized that I’d slept in 8 different spots in 9 nights.

I also learned a big lesson in packing a motorhome. Don’t pack anything of importance or that you might need regularly in drawers on your RV slides. I wasn’t able to get to my iPad, camera or my underwear because we couldn’t get the slides popped out with the electrical issues! Here’s what we did while we were nomads this past week. Remember I only had my iPhone to work with too…

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We took the ferry from New York across to Vermont on Lake Champlain. Can you see us on this thing? I still can’t believe that a big rig like that can go on a ferry across the water? It was gorgeous out and lots of fun to do this too!

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 In Vermont, on our way to Quechee, the Gateway to New England!

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I enjoyed seeing all of the different covered bridges that this area in the upper valley of central Vermont is known for. The kids loved jumping from the rocks underneath the Quechee Bridge one afternoon. We noticed people doing this from the outdoor patio at Simon Pearce, so the kids had to try it. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Simon Pearce and watched the glass blowers working their craft before and after our meal!

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At Sugarbush Farm, we had fun taste testing all different cheeses and four grades of maple syrup! Of course we left with many in  hand as well. This is a beautiful family farm and a fun place to learn how syrup is made from start to finish.

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There is also a cute petting zoo where you can buy 50 cent feed for the animals. Mine still love doing this at their age even. I think it took them back to their farm experience in Montana!

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Fly Fishing for the first time…..

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We only had one guy catch a rainbow trout with a little help from our guide, Peter.

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We stayed in a cabin at this beautiful Quechee Holiday KOA. The owners were great in letting us switch from our originally booked RV spot to a deluxe cabin for our stay. Of course it costs double the amount, but it’s worth it.  The cabins are easier for us than a hotel room because there is more space and a full kitchen!

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This serene pond is at the front of the property. The kids loved fishing from here and renting a canoe to paddle too. Notice the leaves changing here already?!

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I love to bake at home and I only buy King Arthur Flour, so I was way excited to visit the King Arthur Bakery and Shop in Norwich, Vermont on our way to Maine. The bakery here was divine! I plan to come back here one day to take some baking classes as well.

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We only had one night to spend in Saco, Maine near Old Orchard Beach, but we loved our time that we did have here!

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Our next stop was Niagara Falls, New York! I hadn’t even looked into what the KOA was like here, as we were only in the area to visit the famous Falls or so I thought! We were all pleasantly surprised at the beauty and amenities of this KOA owned Holiday property! It honestly is one of our favorites of the trip!

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It was a short, easy drive from the campground in Grand Island to Niagara Falls. We had a lot of fun just walking all around and checking out the Falls from all angles. Our highlight was taking the Maid of the Mist boat. I felt like a sardine being stuffed onto that boat, but you still have to do it regardless of not receiving any love on this thing. They just herd as many people on and off the famous boat as they can. But the experience and views are worth it, so you just have to go with it. You are also given the lovely blue poncho to wear and keep after for a souvenir.

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Did you know that Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls — the Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls — that overlap the international borders of Canada and the United States?

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I had brought our passports along on our trip and was patting myself on the back when we decided to go across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada, so that we could see the Falls from their side as well! Here is the Maid of the Mist going into the American Falls. I have to say the Canadian side was beautiful and seemed less cheesy. Darn us Americans! Why do we have to cheese everything up with all of our discounted t-shirt and junk stands?!

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We stayed in Ontario for an expensive, touristy dinner at Edgewaters across the street from here. The views from our patio table were unbeatable though! We also got to see the Falls light up in their rainbow colors once nightfall came. We loved our time in Niagara Falls!

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My good friend, Judy, had spoken of her Amish friend many times to me.  She knew her when she used to live in northern Ohio before moving to Arizona. When our family was planning this trip around the US, Judy said we really should stop and meet her. She wrote Ella a letter (since they don’t believe in cell phones or computers) and asked  if we could stop by on our way through. We decided why not? It was only a little off our path from Mackinaw, Michigan to Erie, Pennsylvania. On the backroads we went to Burton, Ohio and we are so happy we took the time to do so!

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I tried to be respectful of Ella and her family members, as the Amish do not believe in taking photos of people! But, this was so cute I couldn’t help myself! She was walking us back to see her brother and all the local men and boys working on the farm. We happened to be visiting on the one day a year called Threshing Day. During threshing, neighbors gather together to help each other bring the harvested grain from the fields and mechanically separate the edible kernels from the stems and husks. Threshing oats is important, because horses provide the power for farm work all year long and they eat the oats. Straw, separated from the oats, is used as bedding for the horses, cows and other farm animals. It was really interesting, not to mention quite dirty, to watch the boys and men at work.

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The Amish communities are such a part of our American culture. I feel so blessed that Ella opened up her home to us and answered all of our questions, while we snacked on lemonade, coffee and homemade chocolate chip cookies! Travel ultimately is an avenue to open your mind and broaden your horizons. On the way here the kids were nervous about what we were about to embark on. I have to admit that Keith and I were a little too. In her own words, the Amish “freaked out” our youngest. I think any unknown group of people can feel intimidating, especially to children. It is awesome that through travel, we can learn and grow to respect a culture of people different than ourselves!

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What we learned:

– This is the neighborhood telephone that everyone uses.

– Homes have no electricity, so the Amish rely on wood stoves for heat and gas lamps for lighting.

– Children do not go to formal school after the 8th grade.

– They do not ride bicycles, but children have scooters that look similar to bikes!

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-All personal transportation is done by a horse drawn buggy.

-The Amish are allowed to ride along with anyone driving them though. They hire drivers as well as depend on their English/Yankee friends (as they call us) to get to further away destinations. They can travel for vacation by train but no airplanes!

-Church services are held in rotating homes every other week. The service and Bible are both in German.

-Their clothing is all handmade and of very simple style and colors. There are no zippers, only buttons and pins allowed!

-The women wear caps (I originally called them bonnets) all of the time.

-A black cap is worn when venturing out in public. Otherwise the Amish women wear a white one.

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These signs along the way made me smile. I guess sharing with a big motorhome is a rarity along their country roads! This man got run off the road when his horses freaked out at the sight of our big rig heading toward them. Our family had some good laughs at this poor guys expense. What a great day we had!

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