Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Holidays, Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing

Visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We went to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center yesterday.

They have free admission on 1/17/22 for MLK Day, but we were worried it would be too crowded, so we went the Sunday before.

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“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”, Winston Churchill wrote. Everyone has a bias, even the history books and museums; we wanted to expand the kids’ views and to expose them to all different views of history so that they could learn, research, think for themselves, and listen to all points of view. Each museum has been a different experience, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect of the Freedom Center.

I will say we were pleasantly surprised. I thought the spacing throughout the Center was very nice and that there was nice mix of props (statues, cotton bales, buildings, maps, a few artifacts). There was a lot of factual information, along with some personal anecdotes.

The third floor is where most of the exhibits are and where they recommend you start your visit. The Center did a pretty good job with decorations around the exhibits and movie screens to set the scene. There is an outdoor terrace that has a great view of the Ohio River and Suspension Bridge. It also has Freedom’s Eternal Flame (a gas fueled flame). The Terrace was closed while we were there; of course, it was about 28 degrees outside.

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The 3rd floor also had an modern day slavery exhibit that went over Forced Labor, Child Labor, Sex Trafficking, Bonded Labor, and Domestic Servitude. The crazy statistic that I saw was that 59% of online recruitment for sex trafficking victims was on Facebook.

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The second floor had a Pavilion, which is currently closed. There was a Slave Pen (an original structure brought into the Center) that you could walk into. The inside was very empty, other than a wooden box that had some shackles in it. There were several films available on the 2nd floor. You first walk into a waiting room and listen to a short film with Oprah Winfrey. The doors automatically open to go to the next theater. I thought the movies were well done. One of the theater rooms was even decorated with trees to help set the mood for the film.

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There were only a few interactive exhibits. I think there is a lot of opportunity to do several more interactive exhibits. (For example: an example of hidden stairs and rooms that you could walk through, touching cotton plants.) There were some visual aids, but it was mostly reading. It was definitely an older child/adult type of museum in terms of attention level and retention. It would have been nice to see a map of known Underground Railroad stops in Cincinnati. Ben and I both knew of two, but I’m sure there plenty more.

There is small store on the main floor. (The postcards were $3 each, which I think is the most expensive postcard we have bought!)

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202
  • HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • COSTS: $15/adult, $10.50/children ages 3-12, under 3 free. (Family Season Pass is $65)
  • PARKING: Yes (Paid parking available on-street or nearby parking garages.)
  • BATHROOM: Yes (On our visit, only the 3rd floor bathrooms were open.)
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-3 hours
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks are required (as of January 2022).
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.

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Posted in: Christmas, Exploring Ohio, Holidays

Light Up Middletown

Ben and I had a date night and went to Light Up Middletown. The drive through Christmas light display has lots of displays. Some of our favorites were the Calling Birds (on cell phones) and the reindeer with whales. There were a few unique ones including a steel smelter and an OH-IO.


We have a YouTube video of the drive (about 16 minutes long) or the super sped up version below.

The light display entrance fee is by Cash Donations! For more information, here is the link to their website. I would recommend going early, as the line gets very long to get in (we were in a line for about 45 minutes).

Posted in: Christmas, Exploring Ohio, Food, Holidays, Sightseeing

Exploring Near Home: Doscher’s Candies

One of the things I really wanted to do when we got back home was to explore our area more, just like we would if we were visiting the area. Our year of travel showed me that we get to be complacent and set in our daily schedules when we live stationary.

I happened upon an article about Doscher’s Candy Company while scrolling through my social media feeds. When I saw that they were the makers of the French Chews that Nick loves to get at the grocery store, I knew we had to check them out!

We went on the boys’ next day off of school and got there right when it opened, but it was a lot busier in the store than I thought it would be on a Wednesday morning. Of course, it was the day before Thanksgiving. The store is currently in a cute antique home and has its own large parking lot.

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I loved the interior of the store. It was set up incredibly well, and everything looked so appealing. We saw many different types of candy canes, including dye-free. The boys were there for one thing, and one thing only: French Chews. Normally we only see the vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate French Chews at the grocery store. However, Doscher’s store had so many different kinds including were several new, holiday, and limited edition flavors (candy cane crunch, birthday cake, green apple, blue razz, orange cream).

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We had a lot of fun exploring the space and picking out some candy. The gift shop also offered non-candy gifts including candles, books, seasonal gifts, and locally sourced items. I may have went a little overboard, but how could I resist the cute mini-French Chews and all the different flavors? St. Nick picked out some candy canes for the stockings as well.

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If you are in the Cincinnati area, I would check out Doscher’s! Of course, it’s fun to look and find candy all year long, but St. Nick’s Day and Christmas are coming up as well (wink, wink).

HISTORY:

Doscher’s is the oldest candy cane maker in the US. The company began in 1871 making candy canes. They currently make candy canes, Candy Buttons, French Chews, and caramels. The location we were at makes the candy canes, candy buttons, and French Chews. They still make the candy canes by hand! The caramels are made in Bozeman, Montana by a store they own.

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Our haul

How do you like to eat your French Chews? I like mine nice and soft, whereas Nick likes to freeze and then crack his into pieces.

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 6926 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45244
  • HOURS: Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • PARKING: Yes
  • NOTE: Currently, they are not offering factory tours. If they open the tours back up, I would love to go.

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Posted in: Holidays

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

We hope you have a great St. Patrick’s Day!

Even though COVID killed yet another parade as it took down the Savannah’s Saint Patrick’s Day party, we were able to experience a some festive things.

Savannah still turned their fountains green!

Tybee Island decorated their houses. They had just started the day before we visited, so we only saw a few, but it was still really neat.

If you want some St. Patrick’s Day ideas, or easy soda bread or a stew recipe, please check out my other blog here for my St. Patrick’s Day post!

Erin go Bragh

Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Texas, Holidays, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Lake Conroe Thousand Trails (Houston/Willis, Texas) Campground Review

This Thousand Trails location is located in Willis, Texas near Houston. There were RV spots (mix of pull through and back-in) and cabin rentals. The map lists tent sites, although I did not see anyone tent camping. There was also a section for long term stays. The cabins and the front RV spots looked very nice. The front RV spots were back-ins with concrete pads.

Those were not what we got. We went to check in and the Ranger (not wearing a mask) at the gate told me how full they were and was just not very welcoming. I told him we had a reservation and he pointed me to the back of the lot saying only one lane had openings. Spots back here were gravel, the roads in the back of the park were rougher (not the nice paved lanes like the front of the park), and sites were tight together. We picked our site from the few open in the lane. Driving around later, we saw other open spots that were not given to us as an option. I am not sure if it is because we are Thousand Trails members and we just get assigned the worst spots in the park and the non-members who are paying per night get assigned better spots.

Ice was sold at the Ranger station at the gate for $2.25. The campground had bathrooms and a laundry room. Washers were $1.75/load and dryers $1.50. The campground did not offer change or a coin machine. Half of the washing machines were also out of service when we were there.

There was also a single station car wash for $1 and a vacuum for $0.50. The car wash did not have any soap in it, but we could at least get some of the dust and dirt off of the truck. There was also a tire air station there.

Gate codes changed on Tuesdays, which we were not told until our code did not work.

The pool was open Tuesday-Sunday and was not heated. It was a nice sized pool with tables and chairs. The spa/hot tub was not working while we were there. It wasn’t closed off, just told it wasn’t working. There were bathrooms and two outdoor showers at the pool area.

There was a playground, a putt-putt course, tennis courts, and small basketball hoops. Across from the office/laundry/pavilion area was a small field which was nice for the boys to play ball in. Fishing was mentioned on their brochure, although the office did not sell bait. You could walk to a small beach area on Lake Conroe. The beach area also had a volleyball court and picnic tables. It was too cold to go in while we were there, but I can see it being nice in the summer.

The office was technically open, but they kept the doors locked during open hours, so you had to get their attention to get any assistance. We had some problems in the laundry room (a washer broke mid cycle) and had to get someone to help with the water that was leaking and refund the coins. The younger woman in the office was helpful with the laundry problem, but the rest of the staff seemed grumpy and not interested in interacting with anyone. The staff at the gate never had masks on, even when talking to people checking in. There was another building at the office/Pavilion that was closed for Covid.

Video: Campground Walk Through/Tour

We had decent reception with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The water pressure did drop one day, but came back to normal in a couple of hours.

It was close to a Kroger, some fast food restaurants, and a park. Houston was about an hour away, Galveston 1.75-2 hours, Waco 2.5 hours from the campground.

I don’t think we would stay here again. Houston was not our favorite town in Texas to visit, so I don’t see us coming back to the area. Even if we did, the park wasn’t very welcoming. I think if you were in a cabin or in one of the nice front RV concrete pad spots, it would probably have a completely different feel.

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 2-2.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull through, Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Technically no, but we did see a few people put up outdoor tents.

Amenities: picnic table, fire pit/grill, cable, playground, putting area, tennis courts, basketball, dog park 

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook Ups: Yes. 30 or 50 Amp sites

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: No

WiFi: No

Accepts Mail: No USPS, $5/package from FedEx or UPS

Food On-Site: No

Fishing: Yes, no bait sold on site

Posted in: Christmas, Elf On The Shelf, Holidays

Elfing Around: Adventures of Mini E, Days 21-23

Day 20-21: Hid in my hat. Kids couldn’t find Mini-E the first night and asked the he stay put so they could find him.

Day 22: Writing a postcard to Santa.

Day 23: Hanging out in the kitchen.

Posted in: Christmas, Food, Holidays

Wineing In The RV: Advent Calendar Days 21-24

Day 21: Red wine. I liked this one, it had a nice taste. A little sweet. Barcelos, Red Blend Touriga Nacional, Portugal

Day 22: White wine. This one definitely had a puckering lip reaction. Ben called it “sour grapes” taste. I would not drink this again. Flutter, Chardonnay, Spain.

Day 23: Red wine. This one was ok, not my favorite. Ben liked it though. Chateau Cap De Biolet, Bordeaux, France.

Day 24: Brillant Sparkling, Vino Spumante Brut, Italy.

Posted in: Christmas, Holidays

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas Campground Edition (Poem)


Happy Christmas Eve! In the light of the giving season, Ben wanted to share the poem version of his book. No matter where you are, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Campground Edition) by Ben Tepe, 2020

‘Twas the Night before Christmas, when all through the park, quiet hours dictated even dogs shouldn’t bark.

The stockings were hung on the slide out with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were restless and wiggly in their bunk, until I yelled “Be still or Christmas is sunk”

Mom in her Christmas jammies and I in my suit, had just fell asleep tired out and kaput

When out on the gravel there arose such a clatter, I tumbled over mom to see what was the matter.

Was it a new neighbor or just a giant racoon? This late arriver flew in without plane nor balloon.

No diesel pusher, nor skoolie, nor gas; this guy was unorthodox and travelled en masse.

He drove his ultralight barely room for his stuff, with his load quite unstable, he wasn’t looking too buff.

All the campers around him peered out through their blinds, this sleigh and reindeer nearly made them lose their minds.

No need for a pull through nor hook-ups at all, this guy was in a hurry to bring joy with a doll.

More rapid than campground billing, his team he could enflame, they listened to him ‘cause he called each one by name.

“Now, Keystone! Now, Grand D! Now, Thor and Jayco!  On Airstream! On Tiff! On Winnie and Pal-o!”

“To the peak of that A-frame, to the dome of this rig. Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away jig!”

So, up to the roof top of course they flew, with a satchel full of treats and Santa Claus too!

Fearing the load this furry group had created, Magic alone kept the roof unperforated.

Down through the bath fan Santa came with a bound; dressed for the hunt, he was Christmas Camo gowned.

No time for chit chat he had things to do. To torture the neighbors, he started by leaving a kazoo.

Not sure how he did it with his magic of lore, the whole living space was filled, gifts ceiling to floor.

It doesn’t take much to fill up 200 square feet, but he managed to jam in four TVs, and a pound of dried meat;

A propane fire pit, bike lights and a hammock chair too; St. Nick left nothing out, even single ply for our poo.

Just as fast as he’d come he was gone with some speed, His job now complete he was done with this deed.

But I heard him exclaim in his thick Texas drawl, “Merry Christmas to you, and safe travels to y’all!”

To buy the eBook, complete with the story/poem and illustrations, click here.

Posted in: Christmas, Holidays, School, Word Find

Christmas Word Find: Travel Trailer Shaped

I know I did one of these at Thanksgiving. However, the kids requested a Christmas one, so I thought I would share.

We hope you and your families have a very Happy Holiday season!

For a printable version click here.

Answers, click here.