Welcome to our family’s website! We’ve dreamed about traveling around the world with our four boys (Robby, Will, Ben, and Sam (visit their Blogs by clicking on their names) and now it’s time to live the dream. Thom retired from the Army after 26 years of service. Our last assignment was at Fort Greely, Alaska. We packed up our 43 foot Newmar Mountain Aire motor coach towing an SUV and headed southeast on the Alaska Highway on June 18, 2008. First lesson learned, we packed too much! We hope this year is a positive life changing event for us all, one which will shape the boy's lives and help them find success and happiness in the future. We invite you to join us by reading of our adventures. The boys especially are motivated by knowing others are reading their work, so please provide them some feedback.
Joan and Thom Besch
Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 240-338-2234
We had a marvelous time visiting Lisa and Frits in Switzerland on Lake Maggiore, only 2 miles north of the Italian border. We’ve known Lisa for about 18 years when she was a First Lieutenant in the US Army in California. She and Frits married four years ago, and it was delightful to spend 2 days at their charming Italian villa, which used to be the abbey for the church next door. Although the weather was dreary, cold, and rainy, we couldn’t help but gaze in awe at the lake surrounded on all sides by the Swiss and Italian Alps. The boys loved playing with their dog, Fargo and sharing countless stories with Lisa and Frits. We stayed up late two nights in a row, surrounded by candles and a cozy fire. Thom and I especially enjoyed getting to know Frits, since this was our first time meeting him. We went shopping across the lake in Italy, where Thom purchased some great hiking boots. Frits treated us all to lunch, and then we drove up to a dam on the northern Swiss side of the lake. Here we stood at the top of an incredibly steep dam where a James Bond movie was filmed with the star (stuntman) bungee jumping off. We had a great time throwing snowballs down, waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, and finally hearing the loud Boom upon impact. Lisa and Frits said on our next visit, we must come during the summer to truly enjoy the beauty and swim every day. The only one brave enough to swim on this trip was Ben. On our last day as the rain poured down, Ben ventured into Lago Maggiore in just his swim shorts for a short, cold swim! We all cheered him on. Now we’re heading back to our starting point, Ramstein Air Base, to catch a space A flight back to Baltimore…hopefully soon! It’s been a wonderful 2-week European adventure where we had a chance to visit Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, France, Switzerland, and Italy (briefly!).
After Paris we headed south to the Beaujolais region, which is very special to me. It was 25 years ago when I was a college student at UC Davis studying winemaking. I spent two months in France during “the crush” to gain wine making experience. The Perrachon Family owns a winery called Chateau Bonnet in the Chenas appellation of Beaujolais and they were kind enough to invite a college student for this opportunity. So in 1983, I traveled alone from California to France. Pierre-Yves and his father were in charge of Chateau Bonnet and their entire family was very hospitable. I lived in their home, picked grapes in the vineyards, made wine in the cellar, and worked in the laboratory. I met about 30 other college students from Europe who pick grapes to make money. What a great time of my life! Then Pierre-Yves invited me to travel to St. Emilion, Bordeaux to help his friend Pascal Dalbeck make wine at Chateau Ausone and Chateau Belair. The drive takes all day, and was well worth it! I learned so much about the vineyards and wine making. So now we meet again! Pierre-Yves and his wife Marie-Luce have four fine-looking children named Pauline (20), Charlotte (18), Clemence (16), and Julien (13). Marie-Luce treated us to a wonderful welcome dinner, complete with a cheese course and dessert. Of course we enjoyed wine, including a bottle of vintage 2000 Chenas from Chateau Bonnet produced exclusively from 100-year old vines. Pierre-Yves then opened a 1997 Chateau Belair, the winery in St. Emilion I visited and worked at 25 years ago! Thank you Pascal for all the great wines you’ve made…this was fantastic! Today, Pierre-Yves toured us around vineyards and his winery. Ah, the memories! The boys played in the vineyards where I once picked grapes, and Pierre-Yves explained how they prune the vines. He bought more vineyards and now owns 20 hectares (50 acres) in many parts of Beaujolais, which produce 120,000 bottles, or 10,000 cases/year. He has added barrels, fermenting vats, a “balloon” press which is important in this region, and much more equipment. We met his parents, Monsieur and Madame Perrachon who look healthy and happy. I believe the wine is their secret! We tasted wine from the barrel (a white wine from Chardonnay grapes), and Chenas (red), and Moulin-a-Vent (red) all from Chateau Bonnet. He opened a bottle of unfermented grape juice for the boys, which they loved. We couldn’t leave without buying wine, and also his last bottle of grape juice for the boys. With the generous gift of wine from Pierre-Yves, we walked away with 8 bottles. What great souvenirs! Pierre-Yves explained how they are in control of their wines, from the vineyards to the winemaking, to the marketing and sales. Pierre-Yves is happy that his daughter, Charlotte is studying winemaking in Macon and also his daughter, Pauline is a graphic designer who recently updated their wine label. He hopes all his children will specialize in part of the family business someday. These are wonderful experiences for us, as we plan our future as well. After another delicious meal by Marie-Luce, we said our Good-byes and promised to spend more time on another visit. We also hope they will come visit us in the US…once we have a house! I wanted to talk a moment about our drive from Paris to Beaujolais. The 4-hour drive passes directly through the famous wine region of Burgundy. So Thom liked my idea of detouring off the A6 autoroute to take the scenic drive first to Chablis. Yes, there is a charming little village by this name, and Chardonnay has grown here for hundreds of years. We stopped at a small tasting room where we enjoyed 3 Chablis samples of wine. Crystal and Rachel introduced us to the wines, and it turns out that Rachel grew up in California for 15 years! What a small world. We then followed a well-known route that Rachel suggested, passing along the historic pinot noir vineyards of Clos de Vougeot and Aloxe Corton and towns including Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-St-Georges. I tried to take everything in, from the rolling hillsides of vines to the castles and old farmhouses, to the small village signs marking some of the most recognized wine villages of the world. This is where the red burgundy wines are made, which are probably the most expensive wines in the world. Soon we were back on the auto route zipping south. What a memorable detour!
Paris is beautiful. Yesterday was a full day starting off with a metro ride to L’Arc de Triumph. Thom was impressed and said it was more than he’d expected. There are a few rooms near the top which display the history of France’s battles and wars. Then we climbed up the last of the 230 steps (Will likes to count as we climb). We found ourselves overlooking Paris from the top of the Arc! Just as we got our bearings, my Mom called from California to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving. She was surprised to hear where we were! After that, we visited the Louvre and discovered it used to be a palace for royalty. The rooms are expansive and show off the treasured art magnificently. The Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory, Louis XIII jeweled crown, and Venus de Milo were some highlights. From there we met up with Yolanda and David who were on vacation in Paris. As I mentioned earlier, Yolanda is from Spain and lived with us for a year as our au pair back in 1998-99 when Robby was 3 and Will was 1. How wonderful to be reunited in Paris! She was so happy to hug the boys, and we were so happy to see her again! The 8 of us trekked around Paris, stopping to enjoy landmarks like the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We enjoyed a delicious Chinese meal for our Thanksgiving dinner! David was excellent navigating the metro and streets, and we were happy to get to know him. We promised to take another trip to visit them in Spain. The highlight was venturing to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night, lit up in blue this year. Paris stretches out for miles in all directions, dazzling with lights, bridges crossing the Seine River over 30 times, boats, barges, monuments, palaces, and cathedrals. We spent over an hour on the three different levels enjoying the 360 degree view. I was here with Julia back in July of 1984 when the gardens and fountains are spectacular. Although this time of year is greyer and definitely colder, we still enjoyed every minute of this memorable and romantic city!
Happy Thanksgiving from Paris! Of course, here in France it is just another Thursday. We arrived last night in the area of Clichy, just NW of the heart of Paris. We will have our petite dejeuner (breakfast) and then head off to explore on a sunny, crisp fall day. Yolanda, our au pair from Spain who lived with us for a year back in 1998-99, is in Paris on vacation with her boyfriend, David. We will meet them today! Up until now, our favorite day was spent in the unique city of Amsterdam. It is a city of canals, like Venice. One million people live here, with one million bicycles. We enjoyed walking all around the canals, bridges, and city squares. Oh, and the architecture of the buildings along the canals is fabulous. You’ll see stair-stepped gables (tops of buildings), fancy decorated gables, and statues up high. Most have a hook and pulley up high outside. This is how they lift up furniture to the top floors, since the stairwells are too narrow inside. Then they simply bring the heavy objects in through big windows! We took a 1-hour boat tour around Amsterdam where we saw many buildings dating back to the 1500’s and 1600’s! The boys loved spotting sinking boats that were tied to the sidewalls of the canals. They also spotted bicycles that were locked to bridges or railings which hung down into the canal! Swans dotted the water, and we saw where the trading ships brought treasures back from India, China, and other faraway places centuries ago. Amsterdam was truly one of the centers of world trade. We visited the Anne Frank Museum, a solemn building along a canal. We walked through the building which was her father’s business, and then we walked through the hiding spot behind the bookcase which led into the annex where Anne and 7 other people hid during World War II for two years. Our boys’ eyes have been opened to the tragedies of our world, first hand. They have many questions. Anne was outwardly a happy girl, but in her diary she shared her serious thoughts. We bought her diary there at the museum which we all plan to read. Amsterdam is a city where prostitution and drug sales of marijuana are legal. Again the boys had many questions about things they saw for sale along the streets in the heart of the city, which is right downtown by the train. We all felt very safe with many other tourists and locals all around. Only Thom was allowed to venture into the Red Light District for a short walk…I told him he had to go! We linked up and returned by train to our hostel in Souse.
The sun is shining as we drive into beautiful Holland. Thom keeps pointing out old wind mills along canals, new giant wind mills, sheep, and barges along the big canals. It’s really flat here, and green. I’m so happy the sun is finally out. We’ve had grey skies, rain, and snow ever since we arrived 5 days ago. We’ll be touring into Amsterdam all day tomorrow and maybe tonight if we get settled quickly. We have a reservation at a youth hostel outside of Amsterdam. The tour book says, “Don’t drive in Amsterdam!” With the canals, bikes, minimal parking, and break-ins, we decided to take their advice. So the hostel just outside Amsterdam has parking, and then we’ll take the train in. We’ve discovered that youth hostels are a great way to go for our family, which run us about $90 Euros/night (about $120 US). We all get one room with a bathroom, which usually includes some bunk beds. We have to make our own beds. Continental breakfast is included which is a great deal for the 6 of us! We try to avoid hotels because they require us to pay for 2 rooms since we have 6 people. This easily runs about $250/night in US dollars. I’m reminded of my travels around Europe 25 years ago. After Luxembourg, we went to SHAPE near Mons, Belgium where Thom hoped we could stay in military housing. SHAPE is an army base where NATO headquarters is located. Unfortunately, we arrived on a Saturday and housing was closed for the weekend. So we ventured into nearby Mons and booked the last room at a youth hostel. Then we walked into the local cobblestone grand square where a children’s festival was taking place. The kids were delighted, played a few games, and walked through the “Haunted House.” In the morning, we visited a stunning cathedral before departing. The artwork inside was breathtaking, including alabaster statues, unbelievable stained glass, wood carvings, and paintings. These cathedrals are so colossal. It was Sunday morning but very few people attended mass. I imagine that hundreds of years ago, this cathedral was filled with townspeople and organ music every Sunday. We drove through Brussels, and happened upon the weekend flea market. What a hoot! You can find anything from fresh fish, fruit, and candy to toys to all kinds of clothing. It’s been snowing, so we bought gloves, hats, scarves, and Will even bought a coat for about 10 Euros ($12 US)! From there we made our way through Brussels. It’s a good thing it was a Saturday because we had no idea where we were and the traffic was light. We found all the tourist sites, including the Grand Place, the cathedral, and the town’s favorite statue of Julien. He’s a little bronze statue fountain who pees gleefully. Thom was impressed to walk the Grand Place and see the artistic statues decorating all the buildings. A school group was posing for a picture in the square, yelling their school cheers. We also found a bronze relief of Jesus lying down, which was rubbed to a golden color by visitors wishing for their prayers to come true. From there we headed north, but only made it about 20 miles due to the snow storm. Cars were traveling about 15 mph. So we settled into another youth hostel in Mechelen, Belgium where we caught up on three loads of laundry. That’s a hard thing to do with all this traveling! In the morning we treated the boys to a trip to Europe’s largest toy museum. It’s normally closed on Mondays, but this Monday was our lucky day because it was open for many school field trips. We spent close to three hours learning about ancient toys from Egypt, Africa, Europe and all the way up to modern video games. I’m sure each of the boys will blog about their favorites. Then we drove north to Holland, which is where we are now. It’s amazing to think we’re in our 4th country and this is starting day #6 for us. Yet we only drove about 5 hours in Germany, 1 hour in Luxembourg, 4 hours in Belgium (through the snow!), and 2 hours in Holland. The countries are so small here….especially when we compare driving here with Alaska!
We’re driving from Luxembourg to Belgium in the first snowfall of the season. Thom made sure we had snow tires when he rented the car, so we’re in good shape. This morning we observed a huge traffic jam in the opposite direction of the Audubon, due to trucks and vehicles incapable of climbing a hill on their summer tires. Maybe we brought Alaska’s weather to Europe! Our European journey began 3 days ago when we landed in Germany. After using the USO facilities to set up our cell phone and check email, we headed down the road in our Nissan minivan (with GPS!). We all commented on how clean and orderly Germany looks, even the little villages with their spiral church steeples. After a couple hours, we arrived in Heidelberg, where we stayed at a US Army facility called Patrick Henry Village. We had a 3 bedroom suite with a kitchen, which is just what we needed to get caught up on sleep. Unfortunately, Will and Ben were unable to sleep on the red eye flight, and the rest of us only caught a few hours. We spent our first day exploring Heidelberg. It’s a beautiful city along the Nekkar River with an impressive castle built up on the hills from the 1400’s. We climbed the cobblestone steps and toured the castle, discovering the prince’s and princess’ quarters, the chapel, the damp recesses inhabited by bats, and the high protective walls. The castle is home to a museum of apothecary and medicinal things. It was interesting to see how people were medicated prior to modern medicine. Robby and I enjoyed the laboratory with distillation, mortar and pestle, etc. The boys were surprised to learn that the moat surrounding the castle was used to raise animals, and then the royalty actually hunted there! Our tour guide explained that the women would cheer on their “brave” men from balconies above. Walking down the cobblestone streets with cafes and shops was enjoyable. The boys deciphered many signs, since many German words are similar to English…just a lot longer, they noticed. We heard children at recess playing in a very small space. Our boys watched as the kids laughed, played, and called to each other in German. I think they miss their friends, and probably being at school too. They simply commented that they couldn’t believe what a small outside space the kids had. We also noticed that so many people commute on bikes; students, working people, mothers with children behind, etc. Robby enjoys all the different efficient cars. We think the Smartg Cars are too cute! We found ourselves inside a sporting goods store in a mall. A track with 4 lanes wound its way through the store. Before I knew it, all the boys were on scooters zipping around the track, including Thom! Skateboards, 3-wheelers, 2-wheeler scooters, etc. They were having a ball, and I was amazed that the clerks didn’t stop them. Next, we visited a friend of Louise’s who lives in Heidelberg, named Karin Diekmann. Louise lived with Karin’s family about 50 years ago for a little while as an exchange student. Karin invited us into her stunning home filled with beautiful artwork. She shared sparkling wine and a light dinner with us, as we discussed the wonders of travel, speaking many languages, and family. The boys loved her house because it has an elevator, a lovely outside garden with an incredible view of Heidelberg, and an inside swimming pool. You bet they accepted her offer to go for a dip in the pool! Thank you, Karin for hosting a perfect evening to complete our first full day in Europe. Next we drove to Trier, one of the oldest cities in Europe, which is located on the western border of Germany. We visited La Puerte Nigra, “The Black Door”, which is some of the oldest surviving architecture built by the Romans. I couldn’t help but ask the boys in awe what it feels like to climb 3 stories up on a structure so old. Statues, relief artwork, and drawings are everywhere. We could see the distant vineyards up and down the hillsides along the Moselle River. Our family then walked through the pedestrian-only streets, enjoying German folksingers in traditional costume. We tried schnitzel for dinner, which the boys loved. As an adventure, we spent the night in a hostel. Over 25 years ago, I toured Europe as a college student and stayed in many youth hostels and pensions. It’s a terrific way to meet people from all over the world. The boys liked being in bunk beds again, and meeting a local man from Germany. Today we ventured into Luxembourg and learned about its history. The city is strategically located on steep hills, and was constantly being attacked. Spain, France, Austria, German, The Netherlands, and Prussia controlled it over the past 2000 years. Now it is finally its own country. Luxembourg is the cleanest city I’ve ever experienced, basing much of its economy on finances and banking. Thom spoke with a local man who said the poor world economy doesn’t affect them as much here because they’re very conservative with their loans. We stopped into 2 incredible cathedrals, and walked along the steep hillsides. How they built the bridges, walls, and large cathedrals on inclines like this from hundreds of years ago seems miraculous. Now we’re driving to Brussels, and it’s still snowing. We hope to spend the night at a US Air Base Community, Shape Headquarters, near Brussels.
How exciting this is! We’re on a flight to Ramstein, Germany. Now it’s truly becoming a world tour. We parked our motor coach at the RV park on Ft. Meade and tried catching a Space A military flight yesterday out of BWI (Baltimore). There weren’t enough seats available, so we returned to our RV, spent the night, had a full day of school today, and then returned in the evening to BWI. This time it worked. Two flights were going tonight to Germany, with close to 200 seats available. We heard them call “Besch” and off we went! We’re on World Airways, and it’s exactly like a commercial flight. The boys haven’t been on a flight in over 2 years. Sam especially was thrilled to try out the headsets, put his seat back, and was delighted when the flight attendant gave him a free activity pad with crayons! We’ll land at about 10am, German time. We hope to spend about 2 weeks in Europe, and then return to Baltimore. We all thanked Thom tonight for his 26 years of military service!
Nov 15 It’s a quiet Saturday morning, and everything is so familiar as I look out our “dining room” window. We’re parked at Scott and Sharon’s house, next to our old house at the end of River Birch Ct in Maryland. We lived here for 5 years, which is when Ben and Sam were born. It’s wonderful seeing the Zelnoskys, Kietas, Seemans, Gilligans, Giffords, Ruckers, Ritters, Brockmans, Dabecks, Synders, Lindermans, Hayes, Gerus, and so many other neighbors and friends. The boys are having a ball playing with their old buddies. Yesterday, Robby asked if we could visit his teachers and principal at Elkridge Elem where he attended Kindergarten-3rd grade. He enjoyed surprising Dr. Mumford, Mrs. Herman, Mrs. Fales, Mrs. Fastman, and Ms. Lloyd, and we had a good time catching up with everyone. On our way here, we stopped at Calvert School’s offices north of Baltimore. Thank you Cecilia, Pam, Martha, Joan, and all the staff we met on that rainy day. We enjoyed our tour, and the boys love their Calvert baseball caps. Robby thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mrs. Clark. We’re so sorry we missed Mrs. McMahon and apologize for not linking up on the 2nd visit. Thom forgot how much travel time to plan for given it was a Friday afternoon and raining. One more reason to miss Delta Junction and to look for somewhere less crowded. Calvert is a first rate homeschooling program and now that we’ve seen their offices and staff, we are even more delighted with our choice to go with their curriculum. The boys finished up their 2nd round of testing last week and have been diligent with their studies. We spent 10 days at Eric and Terry’s home just west of here an hour. The kids played daily together, and we had school 5 days a week making good progress. Thanks to Eric and Terry for all the good meals, laundry facilities, showers, etc. Under Uncle Thom’s tutoring, Lauren progressed out of training wheels and now rides her big girl bike on 2 wheels. Duncan is close to doing the same! Erin tried out roller blading, and Thom took the boys ice skating twice. We headed up to Gettysburg and spent a beautiful Saturday at the new Visitors’ Center and of course driving the battle field. Wow! Thom’s been there before and was a terrific guide with his West Point education touring us around. We all learned so much. Did you know that the South produced 75% of the world’s cotton at that time? Slavery of course was important to their economy. What we didn’t know is that the war occurred over whether the slavery should be allowed in the new territories to the west. If the territories had not brought the issue to a head, there is no telling how long it would have continued. Soldiers came from all over, including California and Utah. The 3-day battle involved more casualties than any other on American soil for a total of 51,000! The visitors’ center shows a fabulous 22 minute movie, which really holds the boys’ attention. Moments like these confirm to Thom and me why this trip is so important and we hope they remember these historic places. Given the historic election of Senator Obama to President, Gettysburg was particularly interesting and important. We tied in a visit with our Alaskan friends, the Rennhack’s, who now live in Chambersburg, PA. Dawn cooked up a big spaghetti dinner while the kids played as though it was just yesterday when we last saw them. Then they treated us to a fun fall festival party at Darby and Darwin’s school nearby. Once again, it was great catching up with old friends. We also enjoyed visiting with the Sunderlys; Brian, Deni, Cameron, and Samantha in nearby Germantown. Brain was our pastor when we lived in Elkridge, and we enjoyed a bible study with the Sunderlys and several other families. The kids played like it had only been 5 days, not 5 years, and really enjoyed getting caught up with all Brian and Deni have been doing over the past few years. It was wonderful to see them healthy, happy and flourishing. Another family we were thrilled to see again was the Hilldreth’s. We drove up to Carlisle, PA where Ted is attending the War College. We last saw each other in June as we departed Ft. Greely, where we were neighbors for 2 years. The boys enjoyed playing again with Ashley, Allison, and Aimee while Ted, Kristie, Pat, Thom, and I caught up. Our timing was great to see Pat, Kristie’s Mom, visiting from Alabama. We all went bowling, and although I didn’t break 100, we had a good time (not sure about the bowling league right next to us!) From here, we’d like to catch a Space A flight out of Dover, DE or Baltimore. We’ve never done this as a family, and now is a great time to take advantage of this terrific military benefit. It’s virtually a free flight to Spain, Germany, Iceland, or wherever the military is flying that day. So if you don’t hear from us for a couple weeks, we’re probably in Europe!
Here we are at Eric and Terry’s in Frederick, MD and it’s great to have 8 of the Besch kids back together again. Cousins Erin, Logan, Lauren, and Duncan have been sharing their scooters, bikes, big wheel, and toys with us. They live on a beautiful park, so there’s plenty to keep everyone busy. We arrived just in time to creatively come up with last-minute Halloween costumes, and off they went trick-or-treating together. Now we’re making good advances in school, and are close to the next round of tests. Before this, we visited Pat and Mary Kay O’Neill in New Jersey, and their 3 children Sarah, Kayla, and Matthew. Due to a bad storm, electricity was out in the entire neighborhood. No problem! Not only were we self-sufficient in our RV, but we also plugged in their frig/freezer to our RV and kept it cold with our generator. It’s nice to help others when so many have opened their driveways to us! We enjoyed a romantic candlelight dinner in their beautiful home that evening, with all the kids! Pat was kind enough to let us keep our RV there, while we ventured into Manhattan for a daytrip. We rode the NJ Railway 45 minutes into Penn Station, which was exciting for the kids. We read books, talked with commuters, and Sam even brought his sewing kit along to pass the time. The weather was sunny and crisp, perfect! Robby was a real trooper, maneuvering his way around on crutches like a pro. He sprained his ankle only 4 days earlier. We visited the Empire State Building, and the guides expedited us right to the elevators since Robby was “disabled.” The 50 minute wait only took us about 10 minutes, and suddenly we were on the 86th floor overlooking the breathtaking sights. Our next stop was Ground Zero. Thom and I lived on Long Island, NY for the first 2 years of our marriage, so we’ve seen many of Manhattan’s sights. Yet our last time here was in the late 90’s. Ground Zero is the one place I really wanted to see on this trip. It’s easy to tell when you’re getting close, since it’s the only large area in Manhattan that has no tall protruding buildings, except for Central Park. As we walked 2 sides of Ground Zero, we could hardly see what was going on in the busy centerpiece. The views are blocked by large tarps for construction. Once we reached the south side, we could walk up to a 2nd level overlooking the giant construction scene. It’s truly amazing to consider what happened on Sept 11, 2001. Memories poured over me, as I recalled walking back from the boys’ bus stop that morning in Maryland, being 8 ½ months pregnant with Sam at the time. Thom had just started his new job about ½ mile from the Pentagon on Sept 10. Luckily, he was 10 miles south of there at Ft. Belvoir on Sept 11. To think about the innocent lives lost that day is something I will never forget. We walked past Fire Station Company 10, literally across the street from Ground Zero. A wonderful, artistic wall relief (like a mural) is a great tribute and memorial to all the brave fire fighters. I bought a DVD geared towards children and schools as a documentary of that fateful day. Robby was only 6 at the time, and I want our boys to understand the significance of 9/11. The Freedom Tower and three other sky scrapers are in the construction phase and are supposed to be up by 2012. What a great celebration that time will be! The next stop was South Street Seaport where we caught a water taxi around Lower Manhattan. Ah, to be on a boat on such a picture-perfect day in this world-famous city was exhilarating. The boys loved it too! We snapped a bunch of photos with the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. Again, we caught the Grayline Tour which drove past Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, The United Nations, and Fifth Avenue. We jumped off at Rockefeller Center, and the boys complained that we didn’t bring our ice skates! Yes, kids were skating on the rink for all to see. We walked to Central Park, and then caught a subway to The American Museum of Natural History where “Night at the Museum” was filmed. By now we only had a short time remaining, so we focused on dinosaurs. The boys are at ideal ages where they’re enjoying the sights without getting lost. Ben panicked a bit when he couldn’t see us in a crowd surrounding a McCain rally we happened upon in the center of Times Square. He spotted Will and came running. Then he burst into tears. New York is a scary place for a 9-year old on his own, he realized. Earlier in the day, he decided he’ll never live in a big city because there are just too many people. Now I’m sure that’ll be his opinion for years to come! So let’s see, we enjoyed the lights of Times Square, which is definitely more lit up than I ever remember it. They’ve even added neon red stairs for people to climb and enjoy the view…directly in the center of Times Square! We caught the train located below Madison Square Garden where the Rangers were playing that evening, and headed back to NJ. We’d spent 11 hours in the city and I can’t imagine how we could have packed more in than we did! Before NJ and Manhattan, we spent a couple nights at Round Pond, a campground outside of West Point. I want to mention it because we had 2 days of snow while there! Couldn’t believe it! I kept asking Thom, “What are we doing so far north?” We made good progress with Calvert schooling, and then headed south.