Voyageurs and off to BWCA

By Andy:

Today we set off on our adventure in Northern Minnesota. We went on a boat trip through Voyageurs National Park which is about 40% water. Our boat trip took us to an island that used to be a gold mine. We saw many people fishing, camping, and just having fun on the water. We also saw an old fishing camp which was the last commercial fishing camp in northern Minnesota. We came across about a dozen eagles, most of them juveniles. Later on we went to Canada where we had poutine, Tim Horton’s, and picked up some Canadian candy. My favorite kind is coffee crisp.

I can’t wait for tomorrow which is when I will start my two week canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. Hopefully the mosquitoes won’t be too bad!

(AT)

It’s not a trip, it’s a lifestyle!

When we started this lifestyle, I was sad that we were going to leave my friends. I was also excited that I would get to spend time with my dad. When I first saw the trailer I thought it was tiny and there was no way we were going to live in there. We were going to leave on my birthday too. But actually I grew to like having my own bunkhouse space in the back.

Once we started down the road we stayed the first night in a Walmart parking lot. We were getting our first taste of boonedocking. The next day our truck broke down. Luckily that was the only major bad thing to happen on this trip. My dads new truck pulled everything great then on. We ended up staying at over 40 different campsites.

We have gotten to spend so much time with my parents that usually we wouldn’t get to. I also think me and my brother have grown to like each other a little more. We have gotten to see so much family on this trip too. Family that I may have met but don’t remember. But now I’ll have a memory of them for a lifetime!

One of our goals was to go to as many National Parks as we could. We went to over 70 of them. My favorite National Park was Bryce Canyon in Utah. The view and hoodoos were amazing. One morning we even saw the sunrise over the hoodoos, it was amazing! We also really liked Big Bend in Texas. I actually jumped in the Rio Grande! At every Park we go to I got a junior ranger packet to complete and then got a badge or patch. I have over 50! They are my favorite souvenirs of the trip!

A few months in we found out about BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. We think those have been the best sites, and they were free! The BLM campsite we had by Crater Lake National Park was our favorite campsite. It was so pretty with a river going through too. We used the log bridges to cross, and put our drinks in the stream to keep them cool. It felt like we were Box Car children!

All in all this has been an awesome learning experience for me and my brother. I enjoyed online learning and checking out different libraries. I loved making Vlogs at every stop. I originally did them for the grandparents to see where we were at, but you can enjoy them too! Check me out on YouTube @Woody Tischer. (WT)

The End of the Road

We have finally arrived at our lake cabin. It feels good to be able to relax but I miss seeing all of the new things. Throughout our trip we saw much of the western United States. I enjoyed seeing the desert because before this I had never really seen the desert. From the flat nothingness of West Texas to the palm trees of Southern California to the mountains of Washington and Wyoming we were able to see all kinds of biomes and almost every natural oddity west of the Mississippi.

We were also able to see a ton of human history along the way. My favorite parts of history we saw were Lewis & Clark National Historical Park and Hot Springs National Park. We were also able to tour a missile silo on Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City. I enjoyed seeing all of the Atomic Era technology inside of the missile launch tube.

We went crabbing off the coast in Oregon and caught a bunch of Red Rock crab and one Dungeness crab. It was very cool to be able to eat them. I also went tide pooling and saw starfish, sea urchins, anemones, chitons, hermit crabs, and giant gooseneck barnacles.

My favorite thing to do on this trip was to visit all kinds of air museums. My favorite air museum was Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson because they had the largest variety of planes. I like the Palm Springs Air Museum because we got to see a RCAF F/A-18 with red and white paint fly in. I liked the Evergreen air and space museum in McMinnville Oregon because it contained the Spruce Goose which was the largest airplane at its time and it was made all out of balsa wood. My favorite planes were the Ov-10 Bronco and the P-38 Lightning.

The past 6 months went by quick. My mom went out of her way to make the trip as enjoyable and educational as possible. My dad was an excellent driver and I learned a lot from him and enjoyed being with both of them every day. My brother was my best friend. I will never ever forget the time we had together. (AT)

6 months and done

Here we are, 6 months to the day of having only a camper to sleep in! Full disclosure, we arrived to Jesse’s parent’s lake cabin earlier this week and are now moved into the back cabin. So the lonely camper sits in the back 40, cleaned out but ready to take on another trip any time. I like the familiarity of being here, we all do, and the weather so far has been favorable.

I’d like to remind everyone that I had never been in a camper 7 months ago, so we were complete newbies at this. We spent our first night in a Walmart parking lot and on day #2 Jesse’s F150 stopped working in the middle of the interstate in Joplin, MO. None of this worried us, we made the best of hooking our camper up to the side of the Joplin Ford dealership, and the rest is history.

I honestly can’t believe we did this for 6 months. Originally we thought we’d only be on the road 2-3 months. But now that I think of that, it wouldn’t have been nearly long enough to be happy travelers! Jesse has been so close to landing a couple of great jobs, and again he’s so close to another good one. But even if he doesn’t get this one, I know another one coming will be worth the wait. Yes it’s nerve-racking not knowing where his next career will be, but man we have a good time waiting for it!

A friend recently compared our trip to settlers packing up the wagon and hitting the road in search for a better life. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Jesse’s mid-career sabbatical . Our family has grown because of it, and we have seen amazing sights.

Total confession and in all honesty, we all had a fun and easy 6 months. We saw so many fun things, ate fun regional foods, and genuinely got along very well with each other. Every trip was a one-way trip, and the next stop was only ever 3-4 hours away. We did mountains, deserts, night driving and day driving. We stopped at almost 60 national park stops(parks, monuments, historic sites, etc…) 6 presidential libraries, about 15 air museums, all the states west of the Mississippi (except Hawaii – yes we got Alaska in!) about 7 state Capitol buildings and about 10 Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins(from the food network)

Woody finish his schooling in Moab, Utah around the end of April, and Andy finished in Poulsbo, Washington the beginning of May. I’m so very proud of them for finishing their work with high grades and just being confident learners. I can honestly say that I literally never taught them anything with their school work. I played the part of manager(momager!) and if they needed math help they contacted their dad. When we were near libraries or wifi, I would have them get schoolwork done. If we weren’t, they didn’t have to! Usually when we were at National Parks, all electronics had to be put away and eyes were focused out to the beauty of everything.

We met so may friends and family along the way. People who we may go years without seeing! Quite honestly that was my favorite part of it all. And we were greeted with open arms from everyone as well.

Couple of things I learned from the trip: be nice to those with campers in the parking lot of Walmart. Anyone is always welcomed to park their RV in front of my (future) house. You can do your laundry at my house, eat at my house and let your dog poop in my backyard. A huge thank you to all of those who let us do exactly that!

My top 5 experiences of the trip are as follows:

  1. Seeing the tulip field near Mt. Rainier. It was unexpected, amazing and not only did I love it, my kids and Jesse genuinely were happy for me because they knew I was in heaven. Jesse didn’t stop to turn around for much on this trip, but he wins several brownie points for this time!
  2. Our Alaskan cruise. To be honest, I loved the break from cooking and cleaning and planning. I loved putting makeup on again. I loved dressing up everynight with the boys and enjoyed good food and good service. And I enjoyed the shows and all the things to do on the cruise ship. Seeing Alaska was great too, but we know we didn’t see nearly enough so you bet we’ll be back someday!
  3. Driving border to border on the coast in Oregon. It was so cool to watch Gunner run on the beaches and see the boys pull up a trap full of crab. We stayed at state parks that looked like rainforests. We had tasty craft beer and regional ciders. Plus the goonies you know!
  4. Big Bend National Park in Texas. Perhaps it is my favorite because it was the first big Park we visited on this trip and the amazement of beauty was still fresh and new. But honestly, it was just so neat, so in the middle of no-where, and the rock walls were huge on the Rio Grande. Our mini-visit from there onto a row boat to cross the Rio Grande, then ride a burro into a tiny Mexican village for lunch and some Mexican candy and then back – telephoning the boarder patrol in El Paso to be let back into the country was one of the most unique things we did on the trip. Almost like it was just a dream.
  5. Being with my husband, kids and dog 24-7. We went to bed when we were tired and woke up when we’d had a good nights sleep. We saw all the sights together. We had all these experiences together. The boys didn’t ask for much and went along with the flow for everything. They never complained about the traveling time between stops. We played board games and card games. We hiked together and watched Wheel of Fortune together. We shared our meals with each other when we went out to eat. We told really funny inside jokes and we always laughed over funny things Gunner would do. When Gunner got sick (which he did a couple of times) we had the serious talk that this might be “his time” but we always helped nurse him back to health. Everyone needs a Gunner in their life.

I certainly hope Jesse gets a job soon, but if the time just isn’t right this time around, I’ve got a couple east coast road trips in mind for the fall – haha! (MT)

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the first National Park that we’ve visited on this trip that we’ve actually been to before. 10 years ago, we visited with Jesse’s sister Lindsey and our foreign exchange student from Denmark, Karianne Nielsen. Woody was only 1 so he doesn’t remember any of it so it was all new to him. I have to admit, the weather today was probably the worst of our whole trip. It was chilly, overcast, rainy and even a bit snowy at a point! We still got to see all the wonderful views of the park though. It is such a unique area, from the geysers to mountains to waterfalls.

As Woody was finishing his Junior Ranger booklet, we brought it to the same visitors center that we had visited 10 years ago when Andy did the Junior Ranger program. In my head, I remembered a picture of Andy and the Ranger that gave him the oath. AND I SWEAR I SAW HIM THERE! I tried my hardest to pull up the picture on my phone but internet access was super slow. As Woody was with another Ranger getting checked out, I made small talk with the older ranger and sure enough, he had been there for 17 years! As we were talking he made the funny joke that he totally remembered Andy! I asked for another picture of the group and days later, when I could finally find the picture, sure enough it was the same ranger! What a fun memory!

Of course we had to visit Old Faithful, who wasn’t so faithful. The weather had gotten much nicer throughout the afternoon, but once we got ready to watch OF, it started to rain. And rain. And the wind started to blow. And Old Faithful’s “faithful” time came and went. And went. And it rained harder. And then, it stopped raining(meanwhile, i’d say 50% of the group watching had left!) and a couple minutes later Old Faithful erupted. It was great but we were extremely wet and cold. But after a hot chocolate and big bowl of chili that we shared, we warmed up and headed home after a full day at Yellowstone. (MT)

Grand Tetons National Park

Part of the “thrill” of looking for free federal land to set up shop at, is that you don’t know what’s available until you’re there! After a beautiful but extremely hilly drive from Idaho into Wyoming, we arrived into the outdoorsy town of Jackson. From there we got a great look at the Grand Teton mountain ridge and where we’d be staying for a couple of days. We drove a couple miles up a dirt road, driving from the Grand Teton National Park to the Bridger-Teton National Forest. We were with a couple of other RV’s and campers on a ridge directly overlooking the beautiful mountain. This was another great spot, private with good views, and a big forest behind us, down a steep hill that the boys liked to explore. Woody found a unique tree in the forest that he could lay in to read and took advantage of that in the mornings.

We didn’t see or hear them, but we felt Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s presence on our first night. They were there with a contingent of record executives and other celebrities for Kanye’s album release party. Apparently he likes this place a lot! Anywho, they all had to cross the road near our campsite to get from the ranch they were at back to Jackson to celebrate at the honkytonk in town. I didn’t get an invite, so I’ll probably protest the album.

Some of the fun things we did in the Grand Teton National Park was visit the Jackson Lake lodge. It was exactly what a NP lodge should be like with a huge main room with big windows that framed the mountains. Woody noticed they were selling huckleberry milkshakes. There’s not much the boys will use their Christmas money for, but this is important and memorable for them!

We had beautiful weather here for a couple of days, and the reflection of the peaks off the lakes was amazing. We were totally taking our time here, and Jesse took an off the beaten path dirt road that eventually lead to a lake shore. It was private, with only a couple of other people there so we felt it ok to let Gunner off leash to jump and play in the lake. It was so cold, but you could tell Gunner was loving it all! He played fetch for what seemed forever, and we could have stayed there much longer had it not been for annoying mosquitos.

On another back road, we happened to catch a moose 20 feet off the road munching on some food in a stream. It was pretty cool to witness such an animal! There were plenty of opportunities to see bison and antelope. We even saw “Mormon Row”, which were some preserved farmsteads that a group of Mormon’s set up in the early 1900’s. It’s great to see history in beautiful places like this!

We spent some time in Jackson as well, checking out their downtown. There is a “local” ski hill called Snow King and it is literally blocks from downtown! We drove over just to check it out, and ended up on alpine slides and an alpine coaster! The boys even did a fun outdoor maze, something they hadn’t done in ages. We finished off the afternoon at the Snake River Brewery, Jesse wasn’t afraid of this beer! There was even a “touch a truck” event going on in town. We saw it from afar, but it brought back good memories of all the similar events we’ve taken the boys to in the past! (MT)

Big Hole National Battlefield

Today we had a pleasant drive through the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. We could totally see the large amount of devastation a forest fire left a couple of years ago. It totally changes the landscape and the burn was miles and miles long. The water in the nearby rivers and creeks were very high from the snow melt runoff as well.

Right near the Idaho boarder we stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield. This is our first “National Battlefield” as there really aren’t a whole lot, many other battlefields are historical sites instead. This was a very pretty and open valley. In 1877, many Nez Perce Native Americans were killed in a surprise morning attack by the US Government troops. The Government wanted to round them up to a reservation in Idaho, but the Native Americans wanted to flee to Canada, where they believed they would be treated differently and could unite with Sitting Bull and the Lakota Band there. But the predawn attack took them by surprise and killed 60-90 Nez Perce and 28 US forces.

There are still tepees on the battlefield site that are maintained by families of those in the battle which is super neat. This just so happens to be where Woody’s favorite Junior Ranger pin is from too – it’s a unique gold and silver badge! (MT)

Hamilton, Montana

One of my oldest cousins, (and my Godfather!) Dave Exner moved here to Hamilton, just south of Missoula more then 20 years ago, and we figured we haven’t seen each other since! We found one of our favorite campsites to date at the Bitterroot National Forest that was close by their house and set up camp near a raging creek. It wasn’t big, but it was mighty! This area is called the Yosemite of Montana partly because of the huge rock wall that we were situated up next to and for the beauty of the valley we were in.

We had Dave and his wife Jana over for a couple hours in the evening to catch up and it was the perfect night. They even brought their St. Bernard named Roscoe – man he makes Gunner look small! Dave showed the boys how to use a real metal detector(not like the toy one we bought Woody years ago) and they were able to find a couple of old nails and bottle caps. No diamond rings this time around! Both Dave and Jana’s kids have graduated and moved out, with one in Chicago and the other in Bozeman. It was fun to see Dave and Jana again and hear their voices and their stories and tell a couple of our own. (MT)

North Cascades National Park

We have made the decision to travel back to the MN lakes for the summer. Originally, we thought we’d go up through Vancouver, to Whistler and then to Banff, but when we started looking at timing and a couple of National Parks we still had to visit out west, we decided to come back through the US. Our first stop leaving Kristi and Bruce’s in Poulsbo was to get on a ferry – trailer and all! Doing this meant we would have to pay a little bit of money but we passed up on all the traffic in Seattle and Tacoma which was fine and dandy with us!

The North Cascades National Park is on the northern border of Washington. It is a huge mountain range with lots of lakes and dams that supply energy to much of Seattle. The colors were so pretty of the water and trees. We walked across a bridge with Gunner that had metal grates that you could see through, and it was very funny watching Gunner carefully cross. Not sure if it was the feeling of the metal or the fact that he could see directly down that he didn’t like!

I know we’ve said this before, but National Parks are not very dog friendly. What was unique about North Cascades, is that in the main Cascade Highway that intersects the park, the area around it is actually a National Recreation Area, not the National Park. So, a lot of the trails along the road are dog friendly! We took a big 3-mile hike up to a viewing area of Diablo Lake, and it was nice to see other pups using the trail responsibly as well!

This park must have amazing camping as well, because we’ve never seen so many campers leaving the park as they were today (it was Monday of Memorial Day)! We were amazed that they just kept coming and coming!

We kept driving east out of the park, enroute to Spokane/Coeur d’Alene. We passed many small towns, and even stopped at a cidery for supper (thanks Jesse!). At one point, we started going though Washington Apple Land! There were not only a ton of orchards, but a literal ton of apple boxes/bins. It was very pretty land, we followed rolling hills and the Columbia river for a while. It would be fun to go back in the fall and pick some ourselves!

Our eventual stop was earlier then we’d like it after we discovered a busted fuse that led to the trailer’s running lights not working. But we found a rest stop that worked perfect for us and was right in line with our challenge to not pay for any overnight stays on the way home. BLM land, rest stops, and friends and family’s houses are our goal! Onward Tischers! (MT)

Another Family Win in the PNW!

Those of you who have been following our adventures know already some of the main themes of our last 5 months educating the boys on the road. National Parks (and NPS properties), presidential libraries, air museums and lots of visits with family! Our path has led us to spend some great times with family members we haven’t seen in a long time, to spend quality and extended times with those who live a long way from us.

As Maureen mentioned in a previous post, we made a decision while in Utah. We had to decide, head NW or turn the rig east and head to MN. We chose NW! Oregon and Washington were states we wanted the boys to experience and they were rich with family!

After throughly enjoying Oregon, we made our final Oregon stop in rural Astoria to see my Grandpa Tischer’s younger brother Mark Tischer. We were able to spend a couple of hour chatting with him and my boys were able to meet one of the last from that generation!

From Mark’s, we made our way to Cathlamet/Skamokawa and stayed at an absolutely great RV Park/Port #2 Park right on the Columbia River. The reason for our stop here was to see my dad’s cousin Lee Tischer. Lee and Diane live on Puget Island and are very active in the community. Lee is a Port Commissioner and got us into a great spot where we could see huge ocean going ships only 100 yards from our camper. It was also neat to have people recognize the Tischer last name! While getting to know Lee and Diane, we had a great dinner and learned more about their family. Lee (also known as Woody Tischer) also took us on a tour of the area, including a ferry ride in our truck to go get breakfast on the other side of the Columbia! Once again, our visit reaffirmed the value of knowing family and checking in every once in awhile!

Our path to the Seattle area was a quick one. My mom, Marilee, had decided to make a trip out to the area to meet up with us again (and of course see her brother, sister and families)! During our adventure, I am pretty certain we have seen my folks with more regularity than when we lived in Harrisburg (it’s a good thing). The Seattle area is where my mom’s brother Rollie and sister Kristi live with their families. Base for us was going to be Kristi and Bruce’s in Poulsbo.

Just as we started backing the camper into Kristi’s driveway, my uncle Rollie, aunt Ginger and mom pull into the culdesac. Nothing like backing in and getting set up with an audience! We didn’t realize it at the time, but that spot would be our trailer’s home for the next three weeks! Our time with the Seattle area crew was filled with tons of fun and tons of just plain old “hanging out”!

Some of the highlights of our time in the PNW include (in no order):

  • Time with Kristi and Bruce, Gabe and Josh, and Rollie and Ginger
  • Time with Bruce and Liz (Ginger’s sister)-the boys loved Bruce’s bush pilot stories
  • Maureen being able to see her great aunt Percy and multiple cousins (total of 6)
  • Finally being able to go and get Bruce and Kristi’s boat, get it water ready and enjoy several rides with dolphins seen
  • A great day downtown in Seattle
  • The boys going to the Museum of Flight with Uncle Rollie and learning little about his aviation based career
  • Whidbey Island and the PBY museum (Papa Mick’s uncle trained to fly the PBY here and flew them in the Aleutian Islands during WW2)
  • Watching Gunner and Roscoe play and bark at anything that moved
  • Being able to leave the camper at Bruce and Kristi’s so that we could take our “Alaskan Adventure”
  • The Underwater Warfare Museum with Gabe and the boys
  • A traditional Norwegian lunch at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway with Kristi
  • The Olympic National Park with my mom and Kristi
  • Some great conversations had with all

We finally had to hook on and say goodbye to everyone. While it would have been great to stay even longer, we have a few more places to stop on our way to the lake cabin for the summer! We plan to go across the northern part of the US. Hopefully another family member or two and a stop in Rapid City to see my old boss (nearly family)!

I’ve said it several times-the circumstances of us being able to take this time together weren’t a highlight of my career. Having your job eliminated just plain old sucks. Having the adventure of a lifetime has been absolutely worth it though!!