Retired from the road

I am sad to say the “Traveling Kelley’s” have officially set down some roots and are retiring from the road. We have settled back where our journey began – in the Quad Cities. Sophia is officially a 1st grader and Beth and I are in the process of finding jobs. We are ready to live a normal life and not pack up and move every three months. It’s good to be home!

But as good as it is to be home, I know we will definitely miss the road. The past two and a half years have been incredible. We have been able to do some awesome things. The kids have experienced a lot more than they ever could have. The fact that Sophia is five and Sawyer is only three means that they will probably not remember a lot of what we did. My hope is that with all of the pictures and videos, we can keep the memories alive as long as possible. My plan for this blog has always been to create a final photobook that shows everything that we did. That way the kids could look at it down the road and remember things.

And we did a LOT of things! We visited 30 of the 50 states. We swam in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans multiple times. When we started driving, I use to keep track of miles driven, but I gave up after 20,000 miles – and that was well over a year ago! One thing Sophie and Sawyer are good at is road trips!

It’s hard to pick a favorite memory. From camping in the mountains of North Carolina to surf lessons on Maui. From spending Christmas with Mickey Mouse to swimming in a natural hot spring in Colorado. Cubs spring training, Camp Chinqueka, Outer Banks, Volcano National Park…we did a lot of cool things. The places we lived included Durham, NC; Fort Pierce, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Camp Chinqueka, CT; Denver, CO; Maui, HI; and finally Camp Chinqueka again.

The fact is my family has fun no matter where we are. Sometimes the fun is something big like Disney. Sometimes the fun is something small like going on a hike with a picnic lunch. Now that we are “settled down” the traveling certainly won’t stop. Beth and I are determined to see as much of this world as we can. We want the kids to experience as much as possible. Instead of leaving for months at a time, our travels will now have to be a little more focused. We would like to start visiting places outside of the United States. One of the great things about spending our last two years at camp is we now have friends from all over the world!

So I guess this is it. The “Traveling Kelley’s” are officially signing off. I’ll end my blog with a quote that I saw about traveling that I really like.

        “The world is a book, and those who don’t     travel only read one page.” – St. Augustine.


Our last road trip

Any good road trip always starts with a stop at Dunkin Donuts.

Any good road trip always starts with a stop at Dunkin Donuts.

Right now Sophia and I are relaxing in a hotel in Cleveland, Ohio after a long day of driving. We left Beth’s parents house this morning in a 26 foot U-Haul and drove for about 11 hours. I am sad to say that this is very likely the last road trip for the Kelley Traveling Adventures.

Sophie and I had to leave Camp Chinqueka one week early because she starts school in a couple of days. She will be going into 1st grade in Moline, IL. Like usual, it was bittersweet leaving camp. I think by week six or seven, everyone at camp is looking forward to going home. But at the same time, everyone knows once you leave camp, you will almost certainly wish you were back there again. Camp life is much more fun than real life!

IMG_5653Sophia was a rock star camper this year! She stayed in cabin one all summer without any problems. She was the youngest camper in the entire camp. On top of that, she even won two medals! One was for Arts & Crafts and the other was for Outdoor Adventure. She went on every campng trip that she was allowed to go on. And she earned merits in quite a few activities.

Unfortunately, Beth and Sawyer have to hold off on their part of the final road trip. Beth’s nursing skills were needed at camp for the last week, so they both get to enjoy one more week of camp while Sophia and I move into our new apartment.

Bittersweet is a good word to sum up our decision to stop traveling too. The “sweet” part is the fact that we are going home to our friends in the Quad Cities. It will be nice to lead a normal life for a while. But the “bitter” part is that we have to stop traveling. We have done a TON of stuff the past two years, and I’m sure we will miss being on the road.

Enjoying life at Camp Chinqueka

Sophia and her Cabin 1 bunkmates for the first session.

Sophia and her Cabin 1 bunkmates for the first session.

Today marks the end of our third week of summer camp, and man has it flown by!  It’s hard to believe that camp is already almost half way done, but then again it always tends to fly by very quick.

I am glad to report that both Sophia and Sawyer are really enjoying themselves here at Chinqueka.  Sophia a full-fledged camper this year and is in Cabin 1.  She was very proud of herself on the first day of camp as she showed Beth, myself, and anybody else who would listen her bunk full of all of her stuff.  Beth and I have tried to be kind of hands off as much as we can so she can enjoy a real camp experience without her pesky mom and dad butting in.  Normally she does her own thing, but she does stop by our cabin every once in a while to check in.

Sophia and Sawyer got a little dirty during the "Goldrush" evening activity.

Sophia and Sawyer got a little dirty during the “Goldrush” evening activity.

My nickname for Sawyer is the “Prince of Chinqueka.”  He has turned into quite the ladies man!  Pretty much every girl at camp, both camper and counselor, go up to him to ask if he knows their name.  I am impressed he is able to remember as many as he does!

Sawyer and his nanny, April, get to run around camp and do pretty much whatever they want.  April is especially good at catching bugs, frogs, salamanders, and other various animals for Sawyer.

We have been splitting up our days off between relaxing around camp and going to Boston to visit Beth’s family.  Yesterday we spent a day off at an indoor trampoline park called Flight.  Needless to say, nobody in our family bounces on a trampoline very often, so it was a fun experience to jump around and try some flips.

We only have a few weeks of camp before we have to go back to the real world.  Part of me is ready to be a normal person again.  But then again, I know it won’t take long before I’m wishing to be back at Camp Chinqueka again!

Going strong after our first week of camp

Sawyer and April take aim at the archery range.

Sawyer and April take aim at the archery range.

It’s great to be back at Sunny Camp Chinqueka! We have been here for over a week, so I think we are pretty much settled. We are back in the infirmary, which is a nice place for us. Beth has her work area and then we have our own little two-bedroom living quarters off the back. It’s a bit cozy, but it works well for us.

We got a great surprise when we arrived to a clean cabin! Last year we had a lot of cleaning to do when we first got to camp. But this year our cabin was cleaned and the beds were even made prior to our arrival. We have about 50% of last year’s staff returning to camp this year, so things around camp have been ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately, our Katie “Nana” wasn’t able to come back to camp this year. The darn US Government denied her Visa and wouldn’t let her come back. So Sawyer has a new nanny and her name is April. She is from Scotland and I’m happy to say she and the kids have gotten off to a great start! I’m sure April and Sawyer will spend a lot of time at the playground and hunting for bugs.

Travis, Sawyer, Drew, Sophia, Harrison, and Beth pose for a quick picture.

Travis, Sawyer, Drew, Sophia, Harrison, and Beth pose for a quick picture.

I’m glad to say we have even managed to make it back to see Grammie and Grampie Stanton twice already! The first time was a quick visit during the day. We went to a park with cousins Travis and Drew, and went out for a nice dinner. Plus we all met baby Harrison for the first time! The second trip was an overnight trip at Uncle Damon and Aunt Jackie’s house. We had a bbq and a campfire while the kids swam in the pool and ran around.  Sophie and Sawyer have really enjoyed playing with Travis and Drew!

We have a few more calm days before the kids arrive at camp. Then the craziness begins! Even though this is just the calm before storm, it is still great to be back at camp!

Fun and busy week with Kelley Family in Los Angeles

The whole Kelley crew meets Mickey before our Disney breakfast.

The whole Kelley crew meets Mickey before our Disney breakfast.

Today the Kelley family is on the road again. We are just finishing up a vacation with my family in Los Angeles. As usual, we packed a lot of fun and activities into one short week.

One thing we did kind of different on this trip is we rented a vacation house and all lived together. It allowed us to put the kids to bed and still hang out instead of retreating to our own rooms. Plus all of the kids got to sleep in the same bedroom, which they really enjoyed. We weren’t sure how that would work out, but they actually did really well.

IMG_4926We started our vacation off at the Happiest Place on Earth – Disneyland. Actually, we started our vacation off with a character breakfast at Disney. That is somethign my family didn’t ever do in Florida, so it was kind of neat experiencing one. The kids were able to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Daisy, and Stitch as we ate breakfast. It beat waiting in line for a long time to see each one!

The following day was our big Disney day. We were at the park right after they opened, had fun until lunch time, then went back to our house for naps. We were back in the park and caught the 4pm parade.  That allowed us to stay at the park until 11pm without too much trouble from the kids. We didn’t get to do all of the rides, but we managed to knock out most of them.

Grandma and Grandpa Kelley with all of the grandkids.

Grandma and Grandpa Kelley with all of the grandkids.

After Disney we spent a few days outdoors. We took a hike at the Oak Canyon Nature Center one afternoon. Then spent the next day visiting where Beth and I lived in 2005 at Redondo Beach. Out of all of the places Beth and I have visited during our almost five years of travel nursing, Redondo Beach has been both of our favorite. So it was cool to see the beach and the pier again.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was quite a sight to see at the California Science Center.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was quite a sight to see at the California Science Center.

We headed near downtown Los Angeles one day to tour the California Science Center. The highlight of that museum is to see the big Space Shuttle Endeavor. It is the actual space shuttle that was donated to them by NASA a few years ago. The museum was actually a very good museum for the kids. Very informational, but still enough buttons and play area for the younger kids.

We spent our last day going on the Monrovia Canyon Waterfall trail. It was a 1.5 mile round trip hike. It turned out a little rockier than I thought it would be, so little Cooper had to be carried most of the way. But it was still worth doing.

IMG_4786The week has been very busy with activities, but we have still managed to have a decent amount of down time. The house that we have been staying in had a nice heated pool. Sophia, Sawyer, Sydney, and Riley have all made big strides in their swimming abilities. Tyler has been a virtual fish for a while. The house ended up working perfectly for our family.

Today we are back on the road. We have a 4.5 hour plane ride to Nashville, followed by a 2 hour car ride to my parents house. Then we will have a day and a half to pack up all of our stuff into our cars, followed by a 14 hour drive to camp. Then…..after going from Hawaii to Connecticut in about a week and a half….we will finally be settled at Sunny Camp Chinqueka!

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Time to say Aloha to Hawaii

IMG_20140605_124028_481Today is our last day in the great state of Hawaii.  After coming here in the middle of January, as usual, the time has gone by very quickly.  Especially our one week here on Big Island.

We have had a great end to our time on Hawaii.  Yesterday we went back to the Pu`ukoholā Heiau temple and took advantage of their free canoe rides.  They take you out in a double hulled canoe, similar to the type the native Hawaiians used when they discovered the islands.  We got to sail around a bit and then they go in and talk about the history of the boats and how they were used.  We weren’t quite prepared to get as wet as we all got, but it was still fun to get out on the water.

Last night we drove to the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in Hawaii, to see the sunset.  Actually, we didn’t go to the top.  You need a 4×4 jeep or van to go to the summit.  Plus they don’t allow kids under 16.  But we went to the visitor center and watched a pretty sunset.

Sophia looking at Jupiter and it's moons through the telescope near the top of Mauna Kea.

Sophia looking at Jupiter and it’s moons through the telescope near the top of Mauna Kea.

After the sunset, we stayed for some star gazing.  The top of Mauna Kea is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to see the stars.  They have about 340 clear nights per year because they are so high up.  The cool weather at night forces the clouds below the summit.  Plus there is less light pollution here than most other places.  The kids got a chance to look through some high powered telescopes to see the moon, Jupiter, and even Saturn.

Right now we are all resting up for our big travel night.  Our plane leaves Big Island at 10:40pm and we fly through the night to Seattle, Washington.  We get there at 7:30am, have a three hour layover, then fly about 2.5 hours to Los Angeles.  Then we are meeting up with my parents, sisters, and their families for a week long Kelley Family vacation.

It’s been a fun five months in Hawaii.  But now it’s time to say Aloha!

History, waterfalls, swimming with turtles, and LOTS of driving

The Puʻukoholā Heiau temple was built by hand using a 14 mile long human chain.

The Puʻukoholā Heiau temple was built by hand using a 14 mile long human chain.

We have been pretty busy the past couple of days.  We were on Maui for almost five months, so we had more than enough time to see all of the sights.  Big Island is at least three times bigger than Maui and we are only here a week, so we are trying to cram as much in as we can.

After spending our first full day at Volcano National Park, we didn’t push it too hard on day two.  We tried to stay fairly close to the resort.  We spent the morning at a local beach and then went into Kona to do some shopping after dinner.

Day three we were back on the road exploring the northern part of the island.  Our first two stops we learned about some of the history of the island.  The first one was Puʻukoholā Heiau – a temple built by King Kamehameha in 1791.  It was prophesied that Kamehameha would win the ongoing war and unify all of the Hawaiian islands if he built this temple.  People made a 14-mile long human chain and passed the rocks by hand.  The temple was started and completed within one year, and the prophesy came true.  Kamehameha won the war and was the first person to rule all of Hawaii.

Our picnic spot was the beach on the bottom of the Pololu Valley.  It was a steep hike down and back up!

Our picnic spot was the beach on the bottom of the Pololu Valley. It was a steep hike down and back up!

We also stopped at two very scenic valley overlooks on day three.  The first one was Pololu Valley.  We took a 1.5 mile round trip hike to the bottom of the valley to a remote black sand beach.  It made for quite a picnic spot!  After lunch (and some ice cream) we drove to our second scenic lookout – Waipio Valley.  We opted not to hike into this valley, but it was still a beautiful overlook.

Of all the waterfalls we have seen in Hawaii, Akaka Falls is probably my favorite.

Of all the waterfalls we have seen in Hawaii, Akaka Falls is probably my favorite.

We headed over to the Hilo side of the island for day four.  After a quick stop at the farmers market, we went to a roadside waterfall called Rainbow Falls.  It was a quick stop, but still a very pretty waterfall.  Then we headed north a bit and went to Akaka Falls.  Akaka is a very tall waterfall, said to be twice the height of Niagara Falls.

After visiting the falls it was time to go for a swim.  Beth heard from one of her coworkers about a place in Hilo that sea turtles like to go – Carlsmith Beach Park.  We threw on our swim suits and some water shoes and went looking for turtles.  We were not disappointed!

This turtle kept nudging both Beth and myself until we got out of his way.

This turtle kept nudging both Beth and myself until we got out of his way.

We only saw one turtle, but it was a very close encounter.  He started swimming closer and closer to us until Beth and I each grabbed a kid and stood on top of some nearby rocks.  The turtle still kept coming closer.  I don’t know if he was just curious about us, or if we were simply in his way, but he nudged both Beth and I on the leg until we moved.  It was neat and a little scary at the same time.

We ended day four at Ahalanui Park Hot Springs – a natural thermal pool where the water temperature is in the 90s.  It was a nice, relaxing way to end the day.  Plus Sawyer made a lot of strides in learning to swim.  He has been without a flotation device since we left Maui and he has been a quick learner!