The long-awaited "This Year in Review"!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
1
57
Trip End May 14, 2010


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Flag of United States  , Florida
Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Well, everyone, we've done it. We've completed one full season with Camfel. Much has developed in our lives in the past few weeks (as slightly evidenced by the lack of recent TravelPod entries), but it has come together to allow us to embark on a second Camfel tour in the fall! So in the meantime, I'll wrap up this blog--I'll go back and write some unfinished entries, polish it up here in there, all in preparation for another exciting year of tour!

So, in the meantime, please enjoy this entry reviewing our year.

* * * * *

Total miles driven: 32311

That's one complete trip around the equator of the earth, with an extra round-trip journey across our country from shore to shore to shore!

That's also over 13% of the way to the moon.

Altogether, it's also 10.5 one-way trips across the country.

* * * * *

Here are nominations for select categories concerning our travels:

Best Hotel:
- Candlewood Inn and Suites: Albuquerque, NM -- we booked a king suite, and we could have stayed in that apartment for months!
- Hampton Inn: Bel Air, MD -- we stayed for Kelsey's birthday, and thoroughly enjoyed a rare stay at our all-time favorite hotel chain.
- Ramada Inn: Wayne, NJ -- Finally, affordable luxury. It was our haven of peace in an otherwise tumultuous North Bergen week. And due to its location, we were able to stay there three separate times.
- Knights Inn: Pharr, TX -- Nominated for its surprisingly nice facility. We stayed on two occasions; the second stay, we upgraded to a two-room suite. And each morning, breakfast is served by a little Mexican lady behind a counter.


Best Hotel Experience:
- Ramada Inn: Wayne, NJ -- same as above--it was great to come home to after dealing with the newfound stressors of New Jersey.
- Holiday Inn: Washington, DC -- Kasey came to stay with us in Washington, DC, and we were completely snowed in. It was a blast.
- Olde Town Inn: New Orleans, LA -- Kelsey's brother Mike came to visit us while we visited New Orleans. We stayed in a quaint, almost Bohemian inn, complete with French-inspired courtyard. Very pleasant.


Worst Hotel:
- Bossier Inn and Suites
: Bossier City, LA -- enough said. It takes the entire category.

Worst Hotel Experience:
- Days Inn: Dunmore, PA -- for insisting that they come in and clean our room every other day during our 10-day stay. Despite our do-not-disturb sign, and despite our request to forgo the one day we had to sleep in. Awful.
- Days Inn: Cannot remember where it is in the East Coast, but we wanted to eat breakfast literally two minutes before it was to open at 6:00. We could see breakfast set up, just sitting there, but the lady refused to unlock the door for us. "Tough."
(In general, Days Inns on the East Coast are to be avoided. But in Texas, they quickly became our favorite in-budget stays)

Best Contact Person:
- Dr. Osbourne: Pennsylvania -- The most macho school counselor we met. Very sensitive to our needs and treated us like welcomed guests. He recruited three -huge- guys to help unload our van, and though the guys were unavailable to load back up at the end, he helped us himself. In the rain. Furthermore, he enlightened us into realizing that coordinating middle schoolers is like herding cats. So true.
- Andy Becker: North Bergen, NJ -- Though North Bergen week was the worst week of our entire tour, it was made bearable through the presence of Andy Becker, the district superintendant. He attended each of our assemblies, and made sure the school administration accomdated our needs. It was so great to have the big boss on our side. And he was a very nice fellow.
- Olive Garden Lady: Virginia -- Our contact person at this Virginia school was not on staff at the school--she was on some committee that funded our program. So, the school was completely unprepared for us, and the teachers were not very friendly to us, and the students weren't all that great either. But our contact person went out and brought back Olive Garden entrees for lunch! Yay!

Worst Contact Person
- Alfred Bonnabel High School: Lousiana -- This lady insisted that we use literally twenty high school girls to help us set up. In the moment, we insisted that we could not coordinate that many, and we had to unfortunately decline most of them. She interpreted this as us not trusting her students, and she was quite offended at our attitude. Awkward start to the day.

Best Set-up Experience
- North Pocono HS:
North Pocono, PA -- Our first interaction with Jerry Major was to do one show at this brand new school where his son attended. We had a blast working in the huge auditorium with a bunch of great kids. One kid even helped me fix my speakers.
Alma MS: Alma, AR -- We set up in a performing arts center, under the guidance of "Sellers", the technical director of the facility. He was great to work with, the space was a great space to do our job--it was a great day.


Worst Set-up Experience
- North Bergen, NJ: the first day on North Bergen week, the school was unprepared for us, the stage was tiny and cluttered with instruments and stands and speakers, and our screen ripped as we unfolded it. We barely made it up on time.
- Salem, NJ: the auditorium was the smallest of our entire tour, and it was up two flights of wrought-iron steps. But at least the principal gave us cake.
- Other honorable mentions: 1) the set-up in some basement of some school that didn't have enough room for our screens, and our power cord tripped during the middle of the show. I'm surprised our equipment made it out of there alive. 2) one of our very first schools, where the principal who sent his beloved ROTC students to "help" us set up. After we sent them away, he just sat there in the auditorium and watched us work and reminded us of how little time we had left.

Worst Show
-
Our last day in New Jersey, our DVD player broke in the middle of the show. We had to play the rest of the video on just two screens, which was none-too-fulfilling for the contact person. In our best attempts at customer service, we arranged to stay an additional five hours to show 20-minute segments of another show to kids as they had indoor lunch and recess.
- The gymnasium where the kids were overpacked into the space and refused to be quiet and respectful. We, in turn, were blamed for the show not being loud enough.
- Maryland School of the Deaf--the show was fine, the people were great, but because we had to lay the speakers on the ground and blast them to create vibrations for the students, our speakers broke and forced us to run on one-and-a-half speakers the rest of the year.

Best Touristy Things - Natural Sites
- Turner Falls, Oklahoma
-- hiking, caves, waterfall, river
- Grand Canyon, Arizona -- majestic, almost like a painted backdrop, sunset
- Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico -- enormous, natural cathedral, breath-taking, free for us!
- Bayou Swamp Tour, Louisiana -- feeding marshmallows to wild alligators

Best Touristy Things - Manmade Sites
- Washington DC -- in December with Kasey, walking the National Mall in a blizzard
- New York City, NY -- Rockafeller Square, Christmas Tree, FAO Schwartz
- USS TEXAS Battleship -- Houston, TX -- self-guided tour

Biggest Disappointments
- Four-Corners Monument, NM -- closed for remodeling, after driving 100 miles and two hours round-trip
- New York City, NY -- surprise $50+ parking fee
- Washington, DC -- Rockapella concert cancelled due to snow :(


Best Driving Experience:
-
initial road trip leaving California, through Utah and Colorado
- going 80 mph through the middle of Texas
- road out to the Indian Reservation in Zuni, NM

Worst Driving Experience:
- North Bergen week -- driving through crowded urban backstreets to get to each school, trying to find parking for the schools, avoiding the street sweeper as it seemed to follow us all week
- New Jersey's "jughandles" -- New Jersey's answer to not being able to turn left
- leaving New Jersey -- sudden flat tire on the freeway
Is it ironic that all three "worst driving experiences" take place in New Jersey?

Favorite Overall State:
Texas

Worst Overall State:
New Jersey
- surprised?

Best Eats:
- Gonzales, Louisiana -- oysters @ Mike Anderson's
- Gonzales, Louisiana -- crab etouffe @ Mike Anderson's
- New Orleans, Louisiana -- Louisiana Pizza Kitchen
- Abilene, Texas -- hole-in-the-wall BBQ place
- Amarillo, Texas -- The Big Texan


Best Chain Restaurants:
-
Romano's Macaroni Grill -- our new favorite, it has dipping oil and you can draw on the table paper!
- Chili's -- our faithful standby
- Subway -- it's everywhere, it's cheap, saves money for a nice dinner later
- Quiznos -- for being better than Subway
- Bennigan's -- a surprising wonderful semi-common restaurant--unique and delicious menu items

Funniest Road Sign:
-
Elephant Butte, MN
- Kickapoo Nation, OK
- McDonalds => 1 hour ahead (NM, en route to four corners)

Home Stays and Visits: (in no particular order)
- The Bauns, PA
- Arn Bjorndal, MD
- Jerry Major, PA
- Nancy Winston, MD
- The Kildows, NJ
- The Domenys, NH (Happy Thanksgiving)
- The Nelsons, MI (Merry Christmas)
- The Whitesells, IN
- The Moores, OH
- The Browns, TX
- The Iafelices, TX


Thank you everyone! Thanks for your prayers and support through this entire year. It's been a blast, and a year we will never forget. We are looking forward to this upcoming year as we embark on another adventure. Please keep us in your prayers even now. We'll of course keep you posted as we travel. But for now, I'm going to catch up on some other entires in this blog. Thanks for your faithful reading. Enjoy!

- Mike and Kelsey
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