How do you say goodbye to your hometown?

christmas tree at reston town center pavilion virginia

Six years ago, Chris and I left Africa and returned to the US. In just one short month, we lived in a hotel, got married, bought a house, got a job (Deah), and got deployment orders for nine months (Chris). It was a crazy month, and we we found ourselves living in Reston, Virginia- which turned out to be our home for the next few years.

Reston has a very interesting history. It was one of the original “New Town” planned communities of the 50s and 60s, designed by a man named Robert E Simon (our town is named after his initials). It was inaugurated on Simon’s 50th birthday in 1964, and ol’ Bob lived to see quite the expansion of the area during the rest of his lifetime- I actually met him in 2013, and he lived until the age of 101.

Continue reading “How do you say goodbye to your hometown?”

Try Out An RV This Weekend!

motorhome rv america

Looking to go on a road trip this summer, but not sure you can afford a month of hotels? Tired of sleeping in a tent on the ground? As more and more adventurers are captivated by “Van Life”, you might be wanting to try it. But what if you’re not quite ready to take that plunge just yet? Here’s how you can try out an RV this weekend to see if a house on wheels is right for you.

 AirBnB an RV 

You can stay on private property in a self-contained RV using Airbnb. The owners will generally provide all the comforts you need, including bedding. One RV on offer in the Shenandoah Mountains even offers a ‘smores kit for guests! Staying in an RV is a great way to get out of the routine of a hotel room and not have to set a camp- especially if you don’t already own a lot of the “camping essentials”.  Many RVs on AirBnB come with guides to nearby trails, ponds, and hikes, and tons of them offer fire pits, outdoor seating, and picnic tables as well.

Test Drive an RV using

If you’re thinking of buying a recreational vehicle but aren’t sure what size and configuration would fit your needs, try someone else’s first! The website has thousands of RV rentals ranging from tiny tow-behind pop ups to 34-footers that sleep six. Starting as low as $25 a night, you can reserve an RV for a weekend or a couple of weeks and find the one you like best before shelling out the money to purchase one.

Try a Tiny House 

A new website lets city dwellers get out into nature and explore the delights of a tiny home, without having to sell all your household items! Getaway.House currently offers tiny houses in the woods outside Boston, New York, and DC.  You specify how far you’re willing to drive, and they pick the cabin for you. Shortly before your arrival, they will disclose the exact location to you. You can just relax, knowing all the details are handled for you. Be spontaneous! In the past few years, Getaway has expanded from 5 cities in the northeast United States to more than 20 areas, including 3 in Texas and 3 in the Pacific Northwest.

exterior view of getaway house
Enjoy your view!
interior view of a tiny home getaway
This tiny home has it all for a weekend away. Photos from Getaway website.

Try Before You Buy

If you’re serious about purchasing an RV, many dealers have a “try before you buy” program. You can work with All Star Coaches to find a dealer near you and try out one of their inventory. You choose the amenities you want, and All Star will find the right motor home for you. The best part is, if you purchase the RV at the end of your trial week, the cost of the rental is deducted from your sales price! So you got an extra vacation for free!

Drive into the sunset with a rental before you buy.
Photo credit: Flickr user Kevin Dooley

Don’t worry if you don’t have your own home on the road yet. Now you can camp in an RV in a scenic location without having to worry about driving and parking, or you can try a tiny home for a weekend in the woods! If you’re ready to motor, you can share someone else’s RV for a week, or try one out before you buy your own. The options are unlimited, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to hit the road!

Biking in Delmarva VA

Ten Tips to Save for a Dream Vacation

euros coins dollars save money

Do you love to travel? I do, and I’ve visited 107 countries so far. I started traveling in 2003, so I average about 7 or 8 countries a year. Some of those trips have been short, one week breaks (such as spring break, as I am a school librarian). Others have been on a Continue reading “Ten Tips to Save for a Dream Vacation”

New York City: 5 Boros Bike Ride

Five Boro Bike Tour Medal, New York City

We came to New York City to ride the 40 Mile 5 Boros Ride, but first we had two days of sightseeing. We started off on Friday afternoon, arriving in the city around 4 pm. We decided to tackle mid-town, heading north. Times Square first, then over to St Patrick’s Cathedral, with a stop at Rockefeller Plaza along the way. I love the small botanic garden right there. Up 5th Avenue looking at the amazing stores there and their very stylish displays- all things I could never afford! (Or maybe I could, if I didn’t spend all my money on travel!). Past Trump Tower, with the NYPD police blocking off the entrance and the two cross streets next to it, and then we found ourselves in Central Park. It was nice to get out of the traffic and walk through the park to see the “Imagine” memorial to John Lennon, and then we crossed back over the park to arrive at the Met, open late on Friday nights. They stayed open till 9 so we were able to take in a few exhibits there. Wow, that’s a lot of art!  After the Met, we meandered slowly back to Times Square to see it at night, full of people and bright advertisements (it costs between $1 million and $4 million to advertise there!). Tired, thirsty, and hungry, we visited Authority Beer for a late dinner and drink, and then took the bus from Port Authority to our hotel in Union City, NJ.

The next day we decided to take the PATH train in. We arrived at the World Financial Center, ready to explore lower Manhattan. We arrived in the middle of the crazy white mall/PATH station called The Oculus, which opened last year to a tune of $4 billion dollars. Yep, that was with a “b”. It supposedly represents a dove in flight. Hmm. Anyway, as we exited, we were at the 9/11 Memorial Center and the three existing World Trade Center buildings (a 4th will be built soon). At the 9/11 Memorial Center, two large pools of water continually drain and refill, surrounded by granite ledges with the names of the victims carved in. White roses populate the ledges in places where birthdays of the victims are commemorated each day.

From the WFC, we headed south to Wall Street to check out the “Charging Bull” statue and the “Fearless Girl”- both very popular statues. From there we continued south to the bike expo, to pick up our packets containing the bibs, bike plates, and helmet covers for our ride. Passing through the Bowery, we stopped and grabbed a bagel with lox. Heading north, we encountered The Strand Bookstore, the Flatiron Building, and finally the New York Public Library. I visited the Rose Reading Room- absolutely beautiful- and also the children’s section, where they have an exhibit featuring A.A. Milne and the actual, real stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh.

After the library, we had one more stop to make, just before dusk- the Empire State Building. We took the elevator up 86 floors and took in the aerial view of New York. Stunning.

On Sunday we took the ferry from Paulus Hook over to Manhattan and at 8:15 we were starting our 40 mile ride! It was surreal to ride our bikes through the completely empty 6th Avenue, past all the sites we had seen yesterday. Up past Times Square, through Central Park, into Harlem. Then over to the Bronx, back into Manhattan down FDR Drive, and then into Queens, then Brooklyn. Riding up the steady incline of the BQE to approach the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was the absolute worst part and I kept thinking I would have to dismount any minute and walk it up. But I actually made it to the top, where we stopped to take in the view and shake out our arms and legs. Then we coasted down the last mile onto Staten Island and arrived at the finish. All in all about four hours for us. Afterwards we took the ferry from Staten Island, passing the Statue of Liberty, and then ferried from Manhattan back to Paulus Hook, and drove home, where we warmed up (the cold front came in just as we finished the ride) and ordered a large pizza.

On Sunday we started the drive back home, stopping in Pennsylvania at the Valley Forge Historic Park. They have miles of trails and a car drive, connecting nine points of a tour you can access with your cell phone. Washington’s headquarters, a memorial chapel, examples of the barracks the soldiers created to house themselves for the winter made this encampment the 4th largest city in the colonies in 1777. If you’re into Revolutionary War history, this is a great place to visit.

Next up: a guest update from Chris as he hikes the Camino Santiago in Spain from mid-May to mid-June!