What’s Up with Lewis and Clark

When we started this blog in 2011, it was a place for us to plan and to dream.  We knew we’d be taking an extended trip through the West and we wanted a place for friends and family to be able to follow our exploits.

As we got going, we realized that there were people out there who found our trials and tribulations helped them to plan their own trips.  Fixing Bubbles in RV Wallpaper was an especially popular post!

You’ve probably noticed that the past few months we haven’t posted nearly as much as before.  This is in part because we’re not traveling quite as much, but it’s also because we have new and exciting things going on in our lives.  While on the trip in 2012, Bret and I wrote a book called Investing in Your 401k Kid: From Zero to Little Financial Genius in Five Easy Steps.  Right now we’re focusing on the website and marketing surrounding that project and are pleased to say we’ve gotten an even better response than we’d hoped.  You can find out more about that here.

We’d considered taking down this site, because nothing bugs me more than stale sites, but we realized there is a certain amount of value that other families planning big trips can find here.  We also know that our traveling time is not done, just on hold for a bit.

So, if you’re coming to our site for the first time, I hope you find info that helps you and maybe makes you laugh occasionally.  If you’ve been with us for awhile, maybe you want to move over to our other site which is kept much more current.   Know that we’ll be back.  We haven’t left, we’re just on a different track for right now.

Oh and Lewis is still going strong.  He took us round-trip to Florida in October with nary a hiccup.  Clark is parked and stored safely away for the winter where we are on a constant battle to protect him from the evil mice who want to take him over.  They’ll be back (Lewis and Clark, not the mice), maybe sooner than you think!

Happy Trails!

Tracie

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Family Road Trip to a Canadian Island

**Note:  As I went to post this, I realized Bret had written a post on the same topic, but I thought it might be nice to get two perspectives on the same trip.  I hope you don’t mind!**

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When friends invited us (two years ago, no less) to spend this Fourth of July week with them and their four kids, I have to say I was less than thrilled.  I wasn’t quite sure what to think of a “vacation” that required a 9-hour drive and 13 mile motorboat ride to arrive at an island with no electricity, and I was pretty sure that I would hate the fact that the kids would outnumber the adults 2-1.  But these are really good friends and they were so excited, and in the end, I just couldn’t say “no.”  I do love a good family road trip!

As I sit in the car now, driving towards home, I find myself wishing we could turn around and head back up to those north woods on the other side of the border:  To the calmness of open water and clear skies and days where the greatest thing on the agenda was to catch fish for lunch.

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There was amazing freedom in not being able to be plugged in for a week.  I realized how much time I spend on other vacations “just checking email quick.”  Without that distraction (which easily turns into an hour of my vacation lost), time was freed up for playing cards, watching kids swim and, yes, fishing!  We even made homemade ice cream with an old-fashioned crank machine and precious ice protected in coolers for three days.

We found that eight kids (they brought up a cousin to add to the fun) can get along marvelously when given the chance to interact in a natural non-organized way.  They planned skits, played games and swam until we thought their feet would be webbed.  It turns out that our kids being there encouraged the kids who have summered there every year to try new and different things.  And at the end of the day, they’d collapse hot and exhausted into their private, kids only, bunkhouse to laugh and talk until all hours of the night. IMGP8370 300x199 Family Road Trip to a Canadian Island

Life on an island is relaxed and private and calm, but the network of friends on neighboring islands made it feel as though we were part of a small town community – the type that doesn’t exist anymore.  When I needed dried dill for a recipe I was making for the 4th of July potluck, our hostess sent her 10 year old son in his little fishing boat to the next island over to ask a neighbor if she had any.  Sure enough, he came back, dill in hand.  On the 4th, all 12 of us loaded into two boats and traveled 45 minutes to a different “neighbor” who hosted a party for 70 on his island.  Even though we weren’t part of the community, we were welcomed with open arms and the kids were immediately asked if they wanted to go out tubing. IMGP8323 300x199 Family Road Trip to a Canadian Island

Last 4th of July we were happily enjoying the hospitality and musical celebration of Jackson Hole, Wyoming while on our big, six week family road trip across the West.  This year we experienced something completely different on an island in the middle of Lake of the Woods.  It made me realize how many different ways there are to celebrate the same holiday.  I’m not sure where we’ll be next year (although my vote is for Canada again), but I’m sure it will be terrific.

I hope you also had a wonderful 4th of July!  I’d love to hear where you were!
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Island Living

Last week, we enjoyed a big dose of Island life – not tropical, but wilderness. Being effectively cut off from all communication with the outside world for a week was a refreshing change. Adapting our daily routines to fit the scene – no electricity, limited fresh water – was a fun challenge.

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The cabin on Girl Island has most of the amenities of home – but no electricity

This vacation was to Lake of the Woods, about 45 minutes by boat West out of Nestor Falls Ontario. Our hosts for the week call this 5-acre island “Girl Island”, as it’s one of the few islands on the lake with running water and a flush toilet. The island has a deep (nearly 30 feet) well, unusual in this rocky terrain, from which water is pumped (via old snowblower engine) to a 200-gallon water tower on the island. So there’s running water, but it’s not available in endless supply.

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If you’ve got ice, salt, and a bunch of kids, you can make ice cream

Lake of the woods is known for its monster-sized Muskellunge (Muskies) and draw sport fishermen from all of the world in pursuit of this fish. Ours is a crazy water-loving family, and we wasted no time in storming the beach after we arrived. Our host said, “Nobody ever swims on this beach. This is one of the best Muskie beds on this end of the lake.” I didn’t tell the kids until a couple of days later, after they’d seen a few boats come in and start fishing right in their swimming hole.

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Little did we know that Sjnjuhrff Rock was in the middle of prime Muskie territory!

It was very refreshing to be disconnected for a week. I didn’t miss the ‘net, or the television, or radio one bit. Now returning to civilization, I’m still kind of basking in the glow. Or maybe that’s the feeling you get when you get your head shaved.

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I got a new haircut for Canada Day!

I feel like I have a more laid-back attitude, and a better perspective on what’s really important in life: family, friends, and the experiences we all share together.

Now, I just can’t wait to get back.

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On The Road With Lewis And Clark – 0; Mice – 3

It’s been a long, cold and wet spring in Minnesota, not exactly conducive to camping OR family road trips.  But that doesn’t mean we’ve been sitting idle!  Some of you may know that last summer we wrote a book called Investing in Your 401k Kid: From Zero to Little Financial Genius in Five Easy Steps.  Well, there’s been a bit of attention around the book the past few months and it’s kept us quite busy!  We’ve even moved our financial conversations, which used to be housed here, over to a new site.  If you’re interested, we’d love to have you join us at http://401kKid.com!

 

The First Family Road Trip of 2013!

With everything that has been going on here, including the bad weather, we found ourselves finally taking our first venture out with Lewis and Clark last weekend for our annual shakedown trip.

While the idea of the shakedown is that we take an easy trip so that we can make notes of things forgotten and go in to town if necessary, the reality is that this trip pretty consistently becomes a “For crying out loud, why on earth would mice want to hang out there?”   No matter how hard we try, every winter we seem to get mice in the trailer.

There was the year they grabbed birdseed from a sealed container in the barn and carried it INTO the trailer to have a winter-long party.  Never mind that the barn is heated and warm, these mice wanted comfort and the trailer was where they found it!  Birdseed was still rolling out from under things when we reached Southern Utah!

There was the year we found evidence of mice having spent the winter chewing on our cast iron kabob skewers to get little tiny bits of food off of them.  Cast iron!  It does make me feel better to visualize a family of mice sitting around their living room toothless and wondering where they went wrong.

And then there was this year.  In an attempt to remove all temptation, in the fall we took everything out of the trailer that could be even remotely appealing to a mouse.  Blankets, sheets, pillows, dishes, clothing, shoes, laundry soap, I removed any and all temptations.  This year they found plastic wrapped Ace bandages.  And boy, did they have fun!  The real upside to this “leave no temptation” idea was that when we actually got to our campsite we were missing about half of our gear.

So, we’re reloading and regrouping before our next family road trip.  And we’re already thinking of micey torture  for next winter.  We’ve tried traps, we’ve tried poison, we’ve tried plugging holes and removing temptation.  Any other ideas?  Complicated is fine, we’ve got four whole months to devise our plan!

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7 Tips and Tricks for Eating Well While on Vacation

The more I travel, the more I talk to people who travel, I realize there is often a craziness around food and vacations.  It seems like every winter, ’round about January people who are taking a spring break trip start working hard to lose weight before vacation.  Suddenly, everyone is focused on eating well and exercising.  And, I’ll admit, it works.  Something about having a looming date with a swimsuit and shorts (especially for those of us in the north) makes it easier to say no to decadent desserts and yes to sub-par winter produce.

But then we go on vacation and our hard work goes out the window as we eat everything we’ve ever dreamed of because, well because… well, we’re on vacation darn it!  And then, more often than not, we’re not only back where we started when we return home, we’ve probably packed on a few extra pounds to boot.

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You worked hard for this, do you really want to spoil it by not eating well on vacation?

Now we’re closer to summer and swimsuit season and we need to lose just a few pounds… and the cycle continues.

A while back I realized that this didn’t make sense to me anymore.  If I was going to put myself through the agony of losing the weight to begin with, there was nothing in the world worth putting it all back on.  This idea, however, meant we’d have to change the way we eat on vacation.  I mean face it, most of the time it is mom who sets the eating standards for the family, right?  Or is that just my family?

Here are the tips I came up with for eating well while traveling:

1.  If you have to rely on restaurants for most of your meals, try eating one or two bigger meals during the day.   We usually choose breakfast and dinner or just lunch, depending on the day’s activities.  Sometimes we can rely on a hotel’s free breakfast (just be careful to moderate your family around the high fat donuts, pancakes and waffles) to fill everyone up in the morning.  I also always have apples, oranges, high protein bars and similar items with me that don’t require refrigeration for in between meals to help us focus on eating well.  If I don’t have it with me, we don’t eat it.    When we have a big lunch, we plan on sandwiches from a local deli or a meat, cheese and veggie tray for dinner.  Because we only eat select meals at restaurants, we work very hard to make sure they are extra special in some way.

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Delicious made to order Thai lunch-big meal of the day.

2.  Cut back on starches.Unless we’re being quite active, I’ve found that the easiest thing to cut out of our diets is starch.  I don’t mean easy in terms of family harmony, I mean easy in terms of not hard to avoid.  Most restaurant meals will provide my family with all the starch their hearts desire, so I just don’t buy any for the other meals we eat on the fly.  We’ve found that when we travel, we’re often less active and the extra starch slows us down and makes us tired.

3.  Pay attention to your sugar.  So on vacation, you’re probably going to want to splurge on a dessert or a really yummy looking donut or roll.  That’s fine, but then watch your sugar the rest of the day so you can compensate for the huge load all at once.   The taste of sugar begets more sugar, so this can be a roller coaster if you’re not careful.  If you are having a huge amount of sugar with something, try splitting it or having some protein with it to absorb some of the hit.  I’ve found that if we have sugar in the morning, we fight a battle all day with energy and sugar cravings.  That’s not to say I outlaw it, but I try to encourage eggs to go with it, or to entice the kids with a “better” treat later in the day.

4.  Drink A LOT of Water!!!!!  I can’t say this enough.  Just about every other drink either has sugar or fake sugar in it.   Especially kid’s drinks.  Juice is a treat.  Sports drinks (unless we’re outside running marathons, which we’ve never done once), soda, chocolate milk, and even vitamin water are all things we personally stay away from.  They all add things to our bodies that we don’t really need.  It is amazing how thirst quenching an apple or orange can be.  Water also tends to fill you up.  A treat for us is sparkling water with fruit floating it.  This works better when we’re traveling in our trailer, but I have noticed that more and more hotels are providing fruit infused water in their lobbies.

5.  When possible, cook in your room.  Okay, so there are compromises to this one.  When we stay at our timeshare, we do a lot of “cooking” in the room.  But that doesn’t mean I’m in the room all day.  Here we rely on healthy convenience-y foods that we normally don’t get a home.  A really well pre-made lasagna.  Big salads.  High quality hot dogs (yes, these are made), organic bean burritos.  It’s all about finding the local grocery store and seeing what the options are.  I don’t do this for one or two day stays, but if we’re somewhere for a week or more you can bet I’m finding a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  The food required for eating well is more expensive than regular grocery store food, but still less expensive than eating at restaurants while traveling!

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Farmer’s market finds make eating in the room easy.

6.  Try out locals’ favorite restaurants rather than touristy traps or chains. I know that sometimes the convenience of the restaurant in the hotel or the familiarity of a national chain is going to win out in your meal time decisions.  But if you can occasionally seek out local, hole-in-the-wall favorites, you’re almost sure to get fresher food with less processed ingredients.  One of our favorite resources for this is Roadfood.  We use both the book and the website to find new and fun places to try.

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A local favorite!

7.  Go to local farmer’s markets when possible.  This is by far my favorite tip. Shop where the locals shop and you can rarely go wrong.  Not only will you get the freshest ingredients possible, you’ll also have the opportunity to buy things the are truly local and to try new things.  Farmer’s Markets are usually much cheaper than retail and often sell things other than food.  In Hawaii we went to the Maui Swap Meet (a farmer’s market) where we were able to buy most of our souvenirs for a fraction of what they cost elsewhere.  AND we feasted on pineapple and mango better than anything we’d ever tasted before.  If you ask at your hotel or do an internet search, you’re likely to come up with good options no matter where you travel.  In Minneapolis, for example, there is a huge farmer’s market held right in the middle of the city on the sidewalks every Thursday during the summer months.

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Eating well doesn’t mean sacrificing! Fresh coconut.

Bon Appetite!

 

 
Image credit: kaarsten / 123RF Stock Photo

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