lake louisa state park

our campsite is about 5 miles down the road from lake louisa state park, which is the number one rated “thing to do” on trip advisor for the clermont area. we had also heard good things about it from some camp neighbors, so on friday, with cool temps, we decided to give it a go.

i wasn’t sure about terrain or wildlife, so we determined that the best option for hazel was the backpack.

there are 28 miles of hiking trails in the park, but we picked a sort of smallish set of loops, closest to the lake. the trails were very flat (it’s florida), sandy (it’s florida) and wide. so, we let hazel down to run around a bit.

for most of the hike, it was hazel and i up front, with her either in the backpack or running ahead, and the two older kiddos actually having conversations and walking along nicely. for *most* of the hike.


the humored me and took a few posed photos.

begrudgingly, that is.

i took the fancy camera and hoped for some good pics, but there were a lot of shadows that i didn’t account for. oh well, i managed a few of crazel (and a few of anna, crying, at the end, about an unfair distribution of goldfish).


we saw precisely ZERO wildlife, which was disappointing. but, there were lots of cactuses, which we don’t see much of in north caroline (except at reynolda village on isaac’s class field trip, i was informed).

an a giant pinecone as big as anna’s head, which she would not allow me to use to compare.

another crazel and mom hiking selfie. i don’t know why i can’t make a normal face when i am taking a selfie. too much concentration on getting the angle right, i guess.

once everyone was good and grumpy, we made our way back to the car, to change gears and hit the beach. it was pretty cold. and the lake looked angry. so the kiddos set up camp as far back on the beach as they could.

some education…

apparently there’s lots of alligators in the waters, so why anyone would swim is beyond me.

aside from the threat of gators, the water was a questionable dark brown. seriously. who would swim here?

we busted out the binoculars (which we almost forgot about). the kids had fun looking across the lake and up into the trees at the edge of the beach.

isaac claims to have spotted an alligator.

there was a quaint little playground, so we tested that out, too.


some more playing in the sand.

eventually the cold and wind drove us out.
and this ends our week of adventures in clermont nc.

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orlando science center.

before we left winston, we made a trip out to sciworks to pick up a family membership so that while we were on the road, we could use our reciprocal membership at various science centers we found in our travels. the first such science center was in orlando and it was AWESOME.

there were four floors, packed with activities for each kiddo. and it was FREE!!

the first stop was a little room for “tiny builders”…

despite being geared for hazel aged kiddos, all three of my kids had fun.

the current traveling exhibit is “the wizard of oz”. there was all sorts of things to do pertaining to dorothy and toto and friends. first stop, a photo shoot under the rainbow.

all three kids took a spin on dorothy’s bike.



emerald city.

in the next little section, there was a series of different tracks set up to race balls on. some had lasers that tracked their movements and graphed them or charted their speeds. this was one of ike’s favorites.

old timey flying machine simulator. lots of crashing. a wright brother, he is not.

in the building and structures section, the girls played with kapla bricks.

and isaac worked long and hard on a tinker toys bridge.

his inspiration was the tower bridge in london (not the london bridge as i was so thoughtfully corrected on instagram). he was quite pleased with his efforts and even received kudos from the orlando science museum folks on instagram (even if i did miss label it).

meanwhile, anna made a box and i mostly attempted to keep hazel occupied while isaac worked on his engineering masterpiece.

after all of the school groups cleared out, we headed to the cafeteria for lunch, where we found a perfect backdrop for a fish face photo.

sweet aquarium. the highlight was the clown fish (nemo) in the anemone.

hazel and the tortoise.

there were a bunch of animals and it was probably hazel’s favorite part, running from window to window, identifying the scary animal, pretending to have been bitten by the scary animal and running off to the next. lots of snakes and lizards and one particularly GINORMOUS spider. that backend part of it’s body was bigger than a golf ball. bleh.

then, off to the dino room. big t-rex.

the cutest archeologist, if i do say so myself.

ike, digging up fossils.

hazel, just playing in the plastic “dirt”.

and then. space. the next to last frontier. the exhibit was actually about space and earth. we got to experience what an earthquake felt like and took a spin in a hurricane wind tunnel. we learned about tsunamis the eye of the hurricane. and then happened upon this sphere, suspended from the sky. there was a console, where you could select a planet, and it would change the floating orb into that planet. so cool.


the older two kids took their turns at a bit of weather forecasting. anna just smiled and looked pretty.

isaac actually attempted to give the forecast. :)

lastly, we made our way to the kid zone. it’s probably for a younger crowd, but that didn’t stop us. let’s be honest, the water table is cool for all ages.

the very last stop, the orange grove. similar to the krispy kreme factory at our children’s museum. ha. the kids worked as a team to pick oranges and load them into a tractor, while the tractor operator did the hard work of running the elevator to carry the oranges to a hopper, where more kids unloaded them into crates and put them into an unknown dark hole, where they would magically be whisked back to the trees.

so, that about sums up our day at the science museum. the end.

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downtown disney. disney springs.

earlier last week, i made the executive decision to head to downtown disney, only to find that it has been rebranded “disney springs” and there’s a ton of construction and confusion. once we drove around for an extra half hour or so, we managed to park as far away from the retail part as we possibly could. and, double bummer, none of my steps were counted by my fitbit, because i was pushing a stroller.

i also didn’t get many pics, because it was kind of chaotic and i was with all of the small lid kids and didn’t want to lose any of them.

we are always amazed at the lego store creations. like buzz and woody.

and indoor buzz and woody.

we built some racecars.


last time we were here, lego friends weren’t a thing. so, this girl was new and my tiny lego friends fan requested a pic with her. :)

we filled a cup with as many legos as possible for $16. hazel was the WORST helper in this endeavor.

we found the spray pad and isaac got to work getting wet and frolicking about. hazel wanted NO part of it. anna and i were busy checking out her new purchase, a cinderella jewelry box (that didn’t work and we had to return).

on our way back through, we stopped to check out the lego dragon.

crazel didn’t make it back to the car. it was a long day for a little person.

on the way home, hazel snoozed while anna gazed upon her jewelry box.

we are probably heading back today. anna has some money burning a hole in her pocket, so we will go pick something out, get some lunch and pretend that we actually went to disney and/or universal. #terribleparents

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clermont, FL. week one.

ahhhhhh. wifi.

we haven’t had it for the entire week. well, we had derek’s work hotspot, but we have tried to use that very little for personal stuff. but, he ordered something that gives us some data, and now i’m cruising along.

so. prepare for a flurry of updates, because we have had a busy week. but, first, a post about the non-busy stuff.

the kids are getting better about helping out when we depart and arrive, isaac especially.

we again drove seperately, from saint augustine to clermont (outside of orlando), where we arrived last saturday, for a two week stay. this time we were able to fully unpack and settle in. we found a spot in the back of the campground, that is relatively private, and begin endless playing of uno, anna’s new addiction.

the girls, taking their shallow bath. despite anna’s expression, they love shallow baths, just not being photographed during them.

the place we are now is part of a network that we have a membership in. (it’s the same company as the place we have gone tent camping at in nc a number of times). there’s a LOT of families similar to ours. “fulltimers” or “fulltime RVers”. the weather has been mostly fantastic. and we have been having a great time. one our first full day, we set out to check out the playground…

derek and isaac played giant chess.

and derek and anna went fishing. this was her big bass catch. she’s an old pro.

crazel naps hard on our adventurous days. (i’m not sure which day this was, though).

i’ve completed 55 hexies so far. this thing will take forever. which is good, because i have all the time in the world.

mornings with hazel. we have been waking up late. the camper is so dark when we close up everything that it’s hard to tell when it’s morning. she and i hang out in the big bed until one or both kids wakes up to join us. we like to peek out the window and see if there’s anything fun happening on the path that runs behind our camper.

i can imagine what folks passing by think of this little face staring out at them.

oh. school. we have been hit and miss. on days when we have adventures, we just skip it. because it takes too long (with all the whining) and then we don’t leave enough time before hazel needs a nap. but on our stay-at-home days, we manage. isaac is doing math and language arts. and anna does math and then just reads with me for a bit and on her own for a bit. i should have packed more books, because frozen is getting old. we’ve also been reading “indian in the cupboard” together.

more crazel naps. :)

it actually warmed up enough to hit the pool for a couple of days. hazel is crazy.

the girls. heart.

(i have no pics of the boy, because he was off and running with a pack of splashing boys and i wasn’t going to get close enough with my phone to attempt a pic. maybe next time.)

we still have moments of complete frustration and insanity. anna hates when isaac makes gross sounds. and they both like to hum or sing mindlessly, which drives the other one crazy. but, i have been pleasantly surprised and how much more they like to play together. even with hazel in the mix.

the preparing of meals has been hit and miss. our fridge is soooo small, that we don’t have much room to plan ahead. and we run out to publix for groceries and it’s just as easy to get an $8 sub for derek and i to split as it is to get meat and veggies to grill. and cheaper. so, we have probably been eating takeout or actually out more than we would like. but, we have breakfast down pat, thanks to this sweet griddle.

we had been eyeballing this giant ice cream cone shaped ice cream shop everytime we passed by, so one night i convinced derek that we needed to go. and it was just as good as i had hoped.

so, derek joined this massive facebook group of full time families staying at this particular campground. one of the moms organized a group of folks to go to skyzone trampoline park during their “homeschool hours” on one of the days last week, so we made a go of it. i met a few moms, but mostly argued with my kids, because naturally, there wasn’t a moment that they all wanted to be there. someone was always whining that they wanted to go home. but, they all each had moments of fun too.

isaac was sure he was going to die at one point, because he was so hot. but, he settled back in.

while we are having adventures and playing, derek is working. i try to get the kids far away as much as possible, but when hazel naps, it’s not possible. so, we attempt quieter things or go outside with toys and hope for the best. we have some neighbors that we really like, so they have come over to play some, too. they have SEVEN kids. yikes. anyhow, legos under the awning has proven to be a winner.

mi familia.

this kid.

oh isaac. everytime we do school, it’s an epic struggle. he hates division. and that anna doesn’t have to do as much. and that i help anna more than him. and that he has to write out the math problems to do them. i think the inconsistency in when we do school is partly to blame. so, this week, i’m going to attempt to do it daily (except for friday when we go to LEGOLAND!!!).

more morning window peeking.

saturday morning pancake breakfast. and coffeeeeeeeee.

oh my goodness. we went to “sr tequila” mexican restaurant yesterday for lunch. when we walked in, it was empty, so we were a little worried. but, holy moly. there was SO much food. and it was SO good. and SO cheap. these are my nachos. i ate way too much, but i have no regrets.

it was a rainy and blah day yesterday, so we busted out some minecraft lego sets, and the older two kids went to town. and now, our only table is covered in legos. (in fact, i’m peering through towers of legos just to see my screen as i write this blog).

our saturday night was coming to a close as i snuggled in with hazel. and then she lunged forward and hit her head on the window ledge and then so many tears. it hurts just to look at it.

ok. so that brings me up to date with the boring stuff.
i still have to blog about our day at the orlando science museum. and our big hiking day at lake louisa state park. stay tuned….

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action packed saint augustine day.

the sun was out on our first morning in saint augustine. i had spent the evening before looking for possible fun things to do with the kids, but everything seemed kind of boring for a 9, 5 and 2 year old. lots of historical tours and such. so, we set off for the beach.

we rolled into anastasia state park around 10:15. it was pretty chilly. but not chilly enough to keep us cooped up in our camper.

we dumped out a pile of figurines and got to work.

isaac and anna headed straight for the icy waters. this time i was prepared with a change of clothes, so i let them have at it.


hazel and i stayed in the sand, because we are smart, and because hazel is terrified of the water.


soon, all three were knee deep in the sand, creating castles and small sand play worlds.

finally, the chill set in, so we had a wardrobe change, which was a good time for snacks.

and then back to the sand.

hazel selfie. she is staring out at the ocean. this face is how she feels about it.

dinosaur castle attacks.


isaac spent a good amount of time in his own little world, with some scooby doo guys. sometimes i forget that he is just a kiddo.


we seriously had the whole beach to ourselves, except for an occasional passer by.





offical beach pic.

the anna baby.


after the beach, we decided we needed some ice cream. our gps took us to a road side cart that was closed, so we ventured further into saint augustine and ended up in a little historic area. we miraculously found a metered parking spot and bought ourselves 1.5 hours of adventure.

the girls and ice cream.

and the boy and his.

wandering about in saint george street.

we came around a corner and found ourselves at the castillo de san marcos and it was only $10 to get in (for me – kids were free), so off we went. anna and i were the only excited tourists. isaac was over it. and hazel was ready for a nap.

we walked in just in time to see a cannon being shot. so our timing couldn’t have been better, since we really only had about 30 minutes before we had to head to the car.

hazel is now a big fan of cannons. she will tell anyone and everyone that “the cannon goes BOOM!!”. isaac is pouting because “i always make him do things.”

i attempted a few shots of scenic views, but hazel was running rampant and isaac was grumbling incessantly about wanting to go back and that our meter was going to run out.

haze was asleep before we were out of the parking lot and continued to sleep when we got back to the camper. derek was still working, so i caved and let the older two kiddos play ipads.

ahhhh!! i’m all caught up with blogging.

it is saturday morning. we are getting ready to pack up and head to orlando for two weeks. it will be nice to be in one place for awhile. we are planning to go to legoland while we are there and possibly even universal studios. and hopefully, i can keep up with the blog. for all of my four followers. :)

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from savannah to saint augustine.

so, we had originally planned to make a few stops on our way to orlando, and dry camp for all of them. but, since we were leaving at 9am instead of 5pm, we weren’t sure about finding a spot to stay for the entire day. (the places that usually let you dry camp are mostly just for overnight. the safer places, that is.) anyways. for the sake of our sanity and derek’s stress level, we decided to find one spot to stay and hookup, instead of making two more stops.

again, we drove seperately. derek headed down the road and i took the kids to the waffle house for a delicious, fat free and sugar free breakfast.

derek made it to the florida welcome center, before pulling over to work for awhile. we met up with him there, for some free orange juice and some pamphlet collection. i tried to get a pic of the kiddos there, but this was the best i could get.

now. let me tell you about our harrowing welcome center experience. firstly, isaac is too big to come in the women’s bathroom with me, so i reluctantly sent him into the bathroom alone, while i took the girls in with me. i got anna situated and then went in the oversized handicapped stall with hazel. right by the door. as i was, um, doing my business, hazel dropped down and scooted under the stall door and was off and running. i finished up as quickly as i could and ran out. i scanned the bathroom and didn’t see her, so i bolted out the door, knowing that within seconds she could be anywhere. there were dozens of people milling about. and cars pulling in and out and driving through. but no hazel in sight. i started yelling for her. and getting frantic. i enlisted the help of a few concerned people (decidedly less than i would have expected would have stopped to help a screaming frantic mom). i ran into the men’s room, much to the dismay of quite a few urinal users. sorry. after a minute or so, i was completely panicking. isaac ran back to the camper to tell derek. and just when i was ready to assume she was gone forever, she came strolling out of the ladies room, smiling and having the time of her life. later, when we were inside the welcome center, a lady approached me and said “is this hazel?” — she had heard me screaming and i guess hazel stuck her hand under and peeked into her stall and the lady told her to come find me. i have no idea why didn’t see her when i scanned the bathroom, except maybe she had gone into a stall, but i’m thankful she stayed in there, even if it did take 5 years off my life in those 5 minutes of frantic searching. sigh.

we left derek and the welcome center and made our way to the campsite in saint augustine. except it was SHADY. so, we left to find some lunch and made some calls to find another one. we settled on one called compass rv park, which is under new owners and used to be a little ragged, but is coming around. we are quickly learning that a lot of places charge a few bucks extra if you have more than two people in your party. so that adds up. anyhow, after we settled in, we left to explore. there was a hiking trail at this site, so obviously we went on it.

it was kind of creepy.

there was a GIANT prickly weed that were the bane of my existence growing up. it was about 2 feet in diameter.

creepy trees.

nature specimen. (isaac: “i don’t need to see fungi, i’ve already seen tons of fungi when i was on my class field trip”).

cute hazel. trying to get anna to crawl under her legs. through a puddle.

the anna baby in her safe place.

ginormous grasshopper. it was at least three inches long. i would have put something next to him for reference, but i wasn’t getting that close. :)

anyhow. we settled in for the night. and tomorrow we would have a big adventure.

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charleston. rainbow row.

on our last day in charleston, it finally warmed up and anna was feeling a little better and we were all systems go. except that we had to be unplugged from our site at noon and we had to pull out at 5. so, to do my part, i took the kids out for breakfast, so derek could get a jump start on some of that stuff before he had to work.

we were planning on dry camping for a few nights (no water/electric/sewer hookups), so we made sure to all get nice and clean. as i rotated through the showering of kiddos, the others played ipads and did school.


once we were all done, i dragged the kids to downtown charleston to walk along rainbow row and find somewhere to eat. they were pretty grumpy about the whole arrangement. but, that doesn’t stop me. :)

more grumpy (mostly anna) pics.

cobblestone road races. (dangerous).

this kid. hates being carried or restrained. and likes to run away into traffic or other various forms of harm’s way.

rainbow row! the kids were not impressed. i probably should have just planned a driveby for my sake, because the entire walk was spent with me trying to contain hazel and arguing with kids who were “starving” and just wanted to eat.

finally we found an appropriate eating establishment to fit our attire, family demographic and disposition. the brown dog cafe. it was packed. and we tried really hard to make the whole thing miserable (spilled drinks, bumped heads, smashed fingers, coloring encroachment), but finally we were fed and all was well.

i went with the chicago dog and it didn’t disappoint.

we walked back to our car and made our way back to the site. hazel napped while derek and i packed up the rest of the camper and planned our next stop. since we weren’t going too far, and we are a little gun shy about putting the van on the dolly, i took the kids and derek drove the RV and an empty dolly. it worked out, because we stopped to eat and derek went slower and we arrived in the same general time frame.

we stayed in a golden corral parking lot in savannah for the night. at first, i had planned to find something to do in savannah for the day before moving on, but derek had a work call from 9-11am, so it made more sense to get on the road during that time (vs waiting until 5 pm). so in the morning, we left for saint augustine. i’m waiting for my stupid iphone pics to upload to the icloud so i can see them in iphoto on my computer, before i post the next post. i’m growing impatient.

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charleston. doctors and beaches.

ok. i’m going to attempt to get this blog up to date. starting with last monday and tuesday. in charleston. i left off with a miserable annababy. well, she wasn’t getting any better. high fever. symptoms very similar to hazel’s when she had the UTI at christmas. she was ultra miserable.

we found a pediatrician in the area and off we went. of course, when we got there, she was in good spirits, so i was worried we would get blown off (like at the ER with hazel), but the doctor was very sweet and quickly diagnosed anna with a “rip roarin’ UTI” and sent us off with a prescription for an antibiotic and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

back at the campsite, and feeling better, we were visited by our duck friends, so we happily fed them some old bread.

these ducks were really weird. kind of like turkey ducks.

derek introduced isaac to the technological wonders of the walkie talkie and he spent hours roaming the campsite, narrating his whereabouts to us.

on tuesday, we finally did a little bit of school and then planned to meet our old winston-salem pal, judy kessinger, at folly beach. anna had been doing great all morning, but as soon as we got to the beach, she started to feel bad. thankfully, she was a trooper and was willing to bundle up and let the rest of us run around and visit a bit. :(

these two. shenanigans.


foam stomping.

it was very chilly so i wasn’t planning on swimming. maybe just some dipping toes in the shallow waves. but, this kid was all in. soaking wet and making me cold to look at him.

i went to check on anna and turned around to find hazel clutching a starfish.

i was pretty impressed, thinking that she had luckily happened upon a random starfish and managed to pluck it out.

but it turns out, there were hundreds of them in the tidal pool and there was no luck on her side after all. and i’m sure the starfish was feeling like luck was NOT on his side.

we found so many. there were some with missing legs or half grown back legs. or this mutant starfish, with a 6th leg. i like to think he was an asterisk fish. hahahhaa. i’m hilarious.

we checked out the wiggly tentacle-y legs on the underside.

did i mention there were tons of them?

it was pretty cool. even isaac got in on the action and he’s a world famous non-animal-toucher.

in other sea life news, we also found this giant conch shell.

and some coral.

we wound up layering up the annababy with all of the hoodies we had. and she was still miserable. so, we finally packed it up and headed out.

judy took a family pic for us on the way out. all of the faces are my favorite.

and that is the end of that adventure. :)

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a rocky start.

upon returning from our super fun aquarium adventure, Anna starting complaining about some stomach pain. we got her all snuggled up on the couch and sort of assumed it was just travel and sedentary life induced constipation.   

she is a terrible sick person. 

while she was out of commission and Hazel napped, I was able to finish up one “set” of hexies from a fabric line I bought just before we departed.   

we managed a decent night of sleep with our new arrangements (the crazel and me on the full sized bed above the cab, derek in a back bunk with the kiddos). the rain had dried up considerably, so we attempted some playground time. 


oh. yeah. and it was this guys birthday. he’s been a trooper about having his thunder stolen, first by the epic adventure and second by Annas sickliness. he’s halfway to adulthood. (NINE!). 

he loves his sister Hazel. 

derek and Anna wandered off to fish. I think they were all in hibernation.  

everyone was super cold, so we headed back for lunch and naps and football.

and this cute kid. 

one of my biggest concerns about the nomad life was cleaning the kiddos. they all like to take baths, but our camper isn’t really equipped with all the comfy bath amenities we are so used to. after isaac showered, Hazel announced that she wanted to shower too. after I hosed her off, I realized she was just as happy with just a small bit of water as a full luxury bath at our house. hooray.   

Annas condition deteriorated and a fever set in. she was pretty miserable. and pretty grumpy.    

we had plans to go out for pizza for ikes bday, but with sick Anna, we talked him into oven pizza, hot dogs, and butter noodles. trooper. 

and. it’s bittersweet. because this is the first time in my kids lives that I haven’t made their birthday cake. derek picked up a mini chocolate cake from publix. he also snagged me some cookie icing which was too runny to decorate with, so I just went with a big old 9.   

the birthday boy. 

hee hee. we got reigniting candles. isaac thought they were totally crazy and awesome. :). 

I watched football and stitches up my hexies, while the kiddos watched inside out on the computer. I’m pretty happy with where this is heading.     

and now. as I type this post. at 5 am. this is my view: 

I woke up to her crying and then vomiting. her fever spiked to above 104 and we medicated her and peeled off her clothes and wiped her down with a wet cloth. she was miserable and shivering. :(. but her fever came down and she’s watching “big” while I keep watch (and blog). 

so. we arent off to the best start. but we are hanging in there. if we can survive these miserable, cooped up, rainy/cold, puke filled days, then we can handle anything. right?

and i am pretty happy with how good the kids have been. there have been moments here and there. but they are getting along better than i could have hoped for.

so thats that.

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aquarium adventures. 

after our long and blah rainy first day, we loaded up the kids on day two and headed to the south carolina aquarium. isaac thought it was cool. Hazel thought everything was totally amazing. and Anna was meh.    
model eagles nest. to scale.   

cool fish. Hazel ran from exhibit to exhibit, shrieking with joy. isaac was a willing tour guide.   
sting rays.
jelly fish. 

  nna seriously wasn’t interested in much. but I managed a few pics when she didn’t think I was looking. :).   
the giant sea turtles were my favorite. 

lobster. Hazel would get super close to the glass and then inform us that the lobster (or whatever animal was in the exhibit) had bitten her. a vivid imagination on this one.    

surprisingly, Anna was the one kid who was willing to hold a starfish. 

there’s a massive tank in the middle of the aquarium, which is the highlight of the whole thing. sharks. other huge sea life. and another giant sea turtle. I’m told it’s a girl and she’s about 30. I am not totally sure, but she seemed to be totally interacting with her interested spectators. 
Hazel began running rampant and then threw a complete tantrum when we tried to restrain her mayhem. 
 it was bitter cold and we were under dressed even for the short walk from our car to the aquarium. so you can imagine the grumpiness when I asked for a quick pic just a few feet away, overlooking the water.   
the cold and miserable walk back to the van.  and our first adventure was in the books. 

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