Saturday, January 12, 2008


Our first night at Rob's mom's house was Christmas Eve, when Santa rides around East Bangor on a firetruck and greets all the boys and girls. Unfortunately, Santa didn't get such a nice reception with us, with Rowan bawling his head off (apparently he's still scared to death of Santa) and our dog Kina barking her head off at him. Nevertheless, he was a good sport about it.

On Christmas Eve the tree was in full splendor with a surprising amount of presents stacked up underneath.

We adults opened our presents on Christmas Eve after Rowan went to bed... that Christmas morning would be all about Rowan and his presents. Not surprisingly, though, he still doesn't seem to really understand the idea of Christmas presents. We did get him to open a few of them, but then he would get so involved with whatever new toy he'd just opened that he wouldn't want anything to do with the next wrapped gift that we'd hand him.

For this photo he was thoroughly enthralled with one of the new bath toys he'd just gotten, and had a good time putting on a show for us by putting it in his mouth and wearing it on his face. (He can be quite a ham sometimes, and he knows it!)

The day culminated with a traditional turkey dinner that Rob's mom spent probably a day-and-a-half preparing (as is the family tradition). Yum!!

Jump to Page 3 of our Roadtrip

Early Christmas in Tupelo

A week before we got to Pennsylvania, we celebrated an early Christmas with Carley's parents at their house in Tupelo...

...where Rowan got even more new toys! We all got lots of good things for Christmas this year, as it turned out.

Tupelo also has a Christmas parade, which we watched dowtown on a warm Saturday morning in early December.

Jump to Page 3 - Back to the Pennsylvania Roadtrip


December 22, 2007 to January 5, 2008

Once again, we got a nice break from work and school to celebrate the holidays - 2 whole weeks off! We took advantage of the down-time to make a major roadtrip up north to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with Rob's family.

We stayed at Rob's mom's house, where we enjoyed the festive and cozy ambience as well as some great home-cooking.


I see you! Rowan loved getting to spend some quality time with his Gigi (Rob's mom) - the first time since November 2006, when he was only 2-1/2 months old.

He also really enjoyed catching up with his Aunt Brandi. (Rob's sister)

"Hey, this stuff is sticky!" We didn't get a lot of snow during our visit, but just enough to let Rowan try out the snowsuit he got for Christmas.

Yep, it was a lot like that scene from "A Christmas Story", when little Randy can't even lower his arms all the way inside his bulky snowsuit.

Despite having become quite adept at walking over the past couple of months, Rowan couldn't even take 2 steps in his snowsuit without falling over.

Not only that, but once he fell, he couldn't get back up.

"A little help here, please?"

"OK, I give up."

Click here to jump to Page 2 of our Roadtrip.


In Pennsylvania, we stayed with Rob's mom in East Bangor, a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, just a few miles from New Jersey. It's also just a few miles from where Rob grew up in Bangor.

From here it takes about an hour-and-a-half to get to either New York City or Philadelphia.

Bangor is a small town of just more than 5000 people, with a cute little downtown surrounded on all sides by hills and abandoned slate quarries.

Bangor still retains a quaint, small-town feel, despite the huge population growth in the surrounding areas. Downtown has a total of 2 traffic lights, and there is only one other traffic light in the whole town. If you want to go to a major chain like McDonald's or K-Mart, you have to 2 towns over to Wind Gap, about 15 minutes away.

This building in downtown Bangor seems like a bad place to be if the creek floods!

Bangor's cute little public library dominates one of the corners of downtown. The statue on the right depicts Robert Jones, who founded Bangor in 1875 and named it after a similar slate-mining town in Wales. Back then, the slate quarries were the economic lifeblood of the area, providing raw materials for all kinds of things, including roofing shingles, sidewalks, school blackboards, and even billiard tables.

Today, all of the quarries around here have been mined out, filled with water and abandoned. When Rob was in high school, teenagers used to have all kinds of fun exploring the quarries on dirt bikes and even jumping off the cliffs into the water. (Especially the cliff in the photo above) Today the police and security companies have made it almost impossible to get into the quarries without being arrested for trespassing.

This Bangor playground was a gift to the town from Rob's great grandfather, Max Winkler, who was a German immigrant and very successful business man here in town. After the slate industry started dying out, the #1 local industry became textile manufacturing, and Max built the biggest and most successful of the Bangor textile mills just a few blocks from where Rob grew up. During the World War II time period, his company (Blue Ridge Winkler) was the largest supplier of upholstery fabric to the U.S. automotive industry and fabric for U.S.military uniforms. Now the mill is shut down and paved over, as are almost all of the other textile mills in the area, since it is so much cheaper to get textiles from places like China.

Max wasn't the only one of Rob's family to make a big impact on Bangor. Max's son-in-law (Rob's great uncle) Bill Scott was a very popular philanthropist and mayor of Bangor from 1965 until he died in a car accident in 1972.

Jump to Page 4 of our Roadtrip


The Poconos

Bangor is a pretty nice place for those who like the great outdoors, as it is only a few miles from the Appalachian Trail and about 10 miles from The Poconos, a popular mountainous tourist destination full of lakes, rivers, waterfalls, resorts and ski mountains.

In the Poconos we found this cute little duck pond while driving on a back road near Stroudsburg.

We also stopped to gawk at Buttermilk Falls, just off the main highway outside of Stroudsburg. It looks more like a large water slide than an actual waterfall, but we tend to be drawn to just about any kind of waterfall.


Philadelphia is the biggest city in Pennsylvania and only an hour-and-a-half from Rob's mom's house, so we made a day-trip to the popular, eclectic South Street neighborhood to visit with Rob's sister Brandi and her boyfriend Alec.

Brandi's been living in Philadelphia since she turned 18 a couple years ago. Unfortunately we couldn't get a photo of Alec because he was feeling sick.

Here's the funky little clothing store where Brandi currently works on South Street.

South Street is home to all kinds of young artists, giving the neighborhood a hip ambience that makes it one of the most popular destinations in Philadelphia.

Yes, it's art! This is just across from the Whole Foods grocery store on South Street, where we were finally able to restock on a variety of organic and all-natural products that are not available in any stores near where we live in Mississippi.

New York City

That's right, we also hit The Big Apple, also an hour-and-a-half from where we were staying. Here we are in Times Square on a Saturday afternoon.

The goal for this excursion was a visit with Bakar, one of Carley's good friends from college (Vanderbilt) and from her years attending grad school here in Manhattan. These days Bakar has his masters degree and is teaching Creative Writing at a nearby city college.

Rowan really enjoyed these big city day-trips. He loved being strolled down the busy sidewalks, as he babbled away at all the people and cars passing by.

He also really loved this playground at Madison Square Park. He certainly showed his displeasure when we finally had to leave!

One of the great things about New York is that it's so much easier to walk than it is to drive to most places. This playground was only about 10 blocks from Bakar's apartment in the Murray Hill neighborhood (in the area of 5th Ave and 42nd St). We're pretty sure we'd both be in much better physical shape if we lived in a place like New York rather than a small city like Tupelo, where you almost have to drive if you want to go anywhere.

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve found us in Philadelphia again. This time we left Rowan with Rob's mom, who was happy to have an opportunity to babysit for him. Our destination this time was the 7000-seat Tweeter Center (actually just across the river from Philadelphia, in Camden, NJ) to see a concert by local techno-jam-band The Disco Biscuits, with Keller Williams and Antibalas as the opening acts and DJ Loren Bassnectar spinning some dance sets in the lobby. We enjoyed the opening acts, but weren't blown away. It probably would have been better if we had been closer to the stage, but we were all the way at the back of an indoor amphitheatre with reserved seating and very restricted movement everywhere. Ultimately, the DJ Bassnectar action in the lobby was probably the musical highlight for us.

However the concert was really just an excuse to hang out with our friends Ellis and Kristen, whom we hardly ever see these days because they live in southern California. The good thing is that their parents live in Atlanta and Philadelphia, so we have been able to hang out with them for the past 2 New Years Eves in a row. (Last year we saw STS9 with them in Atlanta.) We always love catching up with them and hearing about what they're up to - Ellis is teaching statistics at a college and Kristen does organizational consulting for large non-profit organizations like ACLU and Amnesty International, and we are constantly inspired by them and their accomplishments.

Jump to Page 5 of our Roadtrip


On New Year's Day we hit the road to begin the long journey back to Tupelo. This would be a much different drive than the one we made on the way up to Bangor, though. On our way north, we were in a hurry to get to Bangor as quickly as possible, so we could get unpacked in time for Christmas. On the way back, however, we took the longer route so we could visit with friends in DC, Charlotte, Greenville and Atlanta.

Our first stop was Falls Church, VA, just outside of Washington DC. Here we got to have breakfast with Andrea, a friend of Rob's from college who was staying with her parents for the holidays. Andrea's been living in France for the past 15 years and is now married and has 2 kids with both US and French citizenship. We didn't get any photos of Andrea or her kids, since our camera batteries had just died, but here's a link to some photos of them in France.

Our next stop was a suburb of Charlotte, NC, where we spent our 2nd night on the road with our friend Greg. We met Greg when we both lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we got to re-connect with him when we lived in Guatemala and when we were traveling in Mexico. Greg has been traveling Mexico and Central America for the past 2 years since he quit his corporate job in a quest to set up a new enterprise somewhere south of the border. For this visit he was spending the holidays at his mom's house, but getting ready for another 6 months down south exploring Nicaragua.

Another great visit was with Peachy, who is Carley's best friend from college and who also happens to be Rowan's god-mother. Peachy is a native of Rolla, Missouri, and when we last visited her she was working on a masters degree at University of Texas in Austin. However, now she's taking a sabbatical from school to work in Greenville, South Carolina, as a regional manager for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

We didn't actually get to meet Barack Obama, since he was campaigning in New Hampshire. However Peachy and her staff were elated on the day of our visit (Friday, January 4th), since Obama had just won the first democratic caucus in Iowa the night before. Unfortunately, Peachy is so busy with campaign work these days that she only had time for a brief late-afternoon lunch with us.

After that we made the 2-hour drive to Atlanta to spend the night with one of Carley's high school friends, Corinne, and her husband Reeve.

Corinne and Reeve are another inspiring couple. For one thing, both are extreme athletes - Corinne is an avid rock climber, and Reeve is a former professional kayaker and river guide and was getting ready to run in a 50-kilometer race. (That's about 32 miles - 6 miles longer than a marathon!) Additionally, Corinne has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and now teaches at nearby Kennesaw State University. They live in Marietta, a large suburb northwest of Atlanta. We were surprised at how beautiful the area was. As you can see in the photo, there is a creek and a good-sized wooded area just behind their house.

We spent the night in their guest room with its own balcony that looks out over the creek and woods.

They also have a nice little deck down by the creek, which is probably great for entertaining guests or just relaxing with a good book.

The wooded setting gave us a great opportunity to get some exercise with a little hike along the stream.

Smoky Mountains

In addition to all the enjoyable visits with friends, we also spent a night on our own in a cute cabin in the Smoky Mountains.

In addition to 2 master bedrooms, the cabin featured both a fireplace (downstairs) and a foosball table (upstairs).

It was nice having a fully stocked kitchen, as opposed to the typical hotel room where you're lucky if you have a microwave and small refrigerator.

The closest town was Bryson City, North Carolina, about 2 miles away. This area is much more serene than the north side of the Smokies, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which by most accounts is getting to be severely over-developed and over-crowded.

The view from outside the cabin was gorgeous, as it was located only half a mile from the southern (Deep Creek) entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Park. This entrance is not nearly as popular as the north entrance, because you can't drive more than half a mile into the Park from here. Instead, you park at a trailhead where you can find trails that will take you just about anywhere in the park, if you've got the right gear and you're ready to do some serious hiking.

The location was absolutely perfect for us, since we were looking to hike to several of the nearby waterfalls along Deep Creek and its tributaries. This was also a great opportunity to try out the REI Baby Carrier pack we got for Christmas. Above is the first of 3 waterfalls we visited - Juney Whank Falls, located a couple hundred yards uphill from Deep Creek on a beautiful little loop trail.

The 2nd waterfall - Tom's Branch Falls - was probably the prettiest of the 3.

By the time we got to Indian Creek Falls, Rowan was absolutely miserable and would not stop crying. And no wonder - it was only about 17 degrees Fahrenheit!

On our way to the Smoky Mountains we stopped for lunch in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. We've long heard that Asheville is an oasis of progressive culture, and we were glad to be able to finally check it out a little bit. We loved our lunch at the renowned gourmet vegetarian Laughing Seed Cafe, a truly awesome establishment that inspires us to both cook and eat better. The photo above was taken on Wall Street just outside the Laughing Seed, where due to the high altitude, there were remnants of previous snowstorms visible on the ground for the first time since we left Pennsylvania.

Rowan and Kina were generally excited to be on the road. Rowan is turning out to be pretty good at dealing with roadtrips. He occassionally reaches his limit where we'll just have to get him out of the car, but for the most part he's good for hours at a time, as long as we keep the toys and snacks coming. Also he loves being out in public, especially at restaurants, where he spends the whole time looking around trying to make eye contact with other people in his quest for more attention.

After 5 days and more than 1500 miles on the road, we rolled into Tupelo about 3pm on Saturday, January 5. We were relieved to finally be home, despite the fact that the trip went so smoothly with no problems at all, and that we had such a great time visiting with everyone. Rowan, on the other hand, was really cranky the next day, as if he expected some more excitement, rather than staying at home all day. We're pretty sure he'll be ready for a big roadtrip out to Arizona and California this summer!

Return to Main Page