3 MORE DAYS!

Typically, the words “Bite Me” don’t carry positive feelings…but, in this case at the restaurant Bite Me Hot Dog Eatery in Maine, it did.
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We had hot dogs, hamburgers, and William went out on a limb and actually enjoyed the Fish N Chips!
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There was an Ice Cream Shop connected called Lick Me. As a family, we ordered a Brownie Sundae…
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…obviously, we enjoyed it!
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It must be said that both of us thought that Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts would be bigger than it was.
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The historian that was there to answer questions confirmed that it used to be a lot bigger but in earlier years, visitors were able to actually chisel off a piece to save as a souvenir.
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Kettle cooked chips are a favorite in our family! So, it was a no-brainer to tour Cape Cod Potato Chips factory in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
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Although the tour was short and self-guided, we were pleased that it ended with free samples!

We’re glad that the Lord kept the rain from coming so that we could enjoy the beautiful beaches in Cape Cod.
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The water was freezing! But, the beautiful scenery made up for it!
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In New York City, we probably should’ve taken the advice of our friends and taken the bus and subway! But we didn’t…
Perhaps, the most entertaining part of the drive through NYC, was rolling down the windows after coming out of Holland Tunnel and hearing everyone honking the horn…including us, we had to give a playful toot on the horn to be like everyone else! When in NYC…

We LOVE the show Friends, so we had to go to see Monica’s apartment! It’s cool that they kept it looking the same as in the show. There were many people there trying to get a picture of the building!
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We were able to see other popular sites but wanted to save our major sightseeing adventure for when we return at Christmastime in December.
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Unfortunately, we were stuck in traffic for hours just trying to go a few short miles. What were we thinking taking a vehicle into New York on a Friday during rush hour???

While in Los Angeles, we tried Randy’s Donuts. In line, waiting to order, we met a sweet couple from New Jersey. We actually ended up taking a picture together and exchanged info and promised to get together when we made it to the East Coast. Fast forward a few weeks later, we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to get our schedules lined up to meet for lunch but it so happens that we were able to move our reservations back at the campgrounds and were able to stay in Cranford, New Jersey at their house. There are no RV parks within about 100 miles of NYC, so it worked out perfectly! Although we met this couple in a donut line, across the country, just weeks ago, the hospitality and friendship that they showed us was like we were friends for years. They took us to a local Italian restaurant called Emma’s and were able to meet the owner!
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And all I can say is “WOW”! If you are ever in the area, you must try it!
After dinner, we went next door for frozen yogurt.
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For breakfast they took us to Kenilworth Diner and it was also fantastic!
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Mackenzie ordered a bagel and it was about the size of her head, lol!
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We also tried a local favorite called Taylor Ham. It was really good!

One thing that deserves to be said is that often our lives become too busy to be hospitable or we get too comfortable with people that we don’t extend common courtesy to others. We are certainly grateful and aware that this is what they did for us!

Once we got the Philly, Kelly had to get a good cheesesteak. It was our first stop in the city. We went to Geno’s because it was supposed to be the best. We stood in a line that wrapped around the block and were rewarded with two HUGE cheesesteaks, one with White American Cheese and one with Provolone Cheese.
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We wanted to try both to see which was better. They were equally yummy and we see why this place is so popular!

The next stop was to Love Park to snap a few pictures!
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Just like Plymouth Rock, we were expecting the Liberty Bell to be a lot bigger than it was.
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On TV, it gives the appearance that it’s huge. It was still pretty cool to be able to see it, as well, as Independence Hall and walk the same grounds as the founders and forefathers of our country!
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As we come up on the last couple of days of our trip, we thank you for your prayers and following us on our exciting journey through the United States! #48statesover48dates #thomas6travels

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New York to New England

Where in the world is all of this water coming from?  Niagara Falls is as amazing as one would think. The water is moving fast, cold, and looks strong.  The mist that comes off the drop is spectacular. 
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If you want to eat some good hot wings and partake in history, you have to go to Buffalo, NY and eat at Anchor Bar.  This is where Buffalo wings originated and they sure know how to cook them.  The kids tore them up.
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Vermont is as beautiful as the movie “Baby Boom” makes it look.  Two things the state is certainly known for is maple syrup and Ben & Jerry’s, so of course we visited both.
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We stopped by Dakin Farms and watched how maple syrup is made from simple tree sap and sugar.  Of course we sampled their syrup, but we also tried their smoked sausage, cheeses, crackers, honey, and peanut butter.  They all were tasty. 
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It was just a warm-up for the ice cream sampling we would have.  The tour through Ben & Jerry’s culminated in trying out a Salted Caramel Blondie scoop.  We were not fans of it before, having never tasted it, but we sure are now.
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Kelly is a big fan of the nostalgia that comes with country stores so we stopped by one in Vermont, as well.  Seeing the penny candy brought back memories of growing up and filling a little brown bag full of them.
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One last stop we made in Vermont was at their Christmas Lodge.  If you have seen the windows in our home during Christmas, you would know that we love putting trees in them for all to see.  Kelly is not one to pass any Christmas store if she sees it but this one certainly has been the best of our trip.
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With all the fall and Christmas decorations, we are getting excited about this upcoming season.  Our annual Gatlinburg trip seems right around the corner, especially as it seems like this trip has flown by now, as we come towards it end.

Thanks for your prayers and following us along this journey! #48statesover48dates #thomas6travels

Over the river and through the woods to Grandpa’s house we go!

I don’t know how we would have made it if we were born in the early years of America. We were able to visit The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and visit Abraham Lincoln’s house where eight people lived in a single room home.
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His childhood, certainly, must have influenced his convictions in his life. Since his mother and sister died while he was a young age, he knew what it felt like to lose family. He also witnessed, at a young age, in Louisiana, slave families being separated at an auction. Walking through the home he grew up in, taking the same path through the woods that he took, and learning about his childhood was pretty amazing.
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Mackenzie had been asking to ride horses for about a week. Finally, in Santa Claus, Indiana, she had the chance at Santa’s Stables.
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Although it was hot, smelly, and bugs were flying all around, the kids thoroughly enjoyed it!

That was no typo…we actually stayed in a town called Santa Claus! Everything in the city had to do with Christmas, whether it was a road named Prancer or an amusement park called Holiday World or a restaurant named after Santa’s helpers…the city truly took advantage of its name.
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Have you ever wondered why the Dum Dum sucker is called a Dum Dum?
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We took a tour of the Spangler Candy factory in Northwest Ohio and discovered that the founder wanted to make his candy recognizable. He realized that little kids learned simple words like Ma Ma and Da Da and hoped that when a kid learned to say “Dum Dum” in a store, it was to buy his candy. Pretty ingenious, if you think about it.
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The tour was pretty neat. We learned that almost 15 MILLION pieces of candy are made there every day! Wow! Because of that, they were able to give out a bunch of free samples…needless to say, we took full advantage…
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We always look forward to seeing Grandpa Harold and Grandma Shonen (and their dogs). This time, they had a fireworks show planned with a live DJ, snow cone machine and a popcorn machine!
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As always, we had a great time! After 6 weeks in an RV, it was nice to have a real bathroom, take a real shower, and sleep in a real bed for a few days!
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We also made a stop to White Castle to let the kids have a taste… they didn’t like it 😦
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Of course, no Ohio trip can go by without a trip to Johnnie’s Bakery, William getting his Gold’n Crisp chips, and seeing Papa and Nana in Canton, Ohio!
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In West Virginia, we got to experience our first stay in a State Park.
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We had to monitor the amount of water we used since we didn’t have a sewer connection. In the morning, we had to stop by the Dump Station to deposit all of the liquids and waste from our stay. Not our favorite way to camp, but we made it! The sound of everything rushing out convinced us that we’re not quite ready for that kind of camping! We prefer turn-key and full hook-ups!

We’re excited to be headed to the New England states as we conclude our trip and head back home next week. Thanks for the prayers! #thomas6travels #48statesover48dates

Halfway through the states

You can’t go to Wisconsin without trying their cheese. We heard that the place to go was Bass Lake Cheese Factory.
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The lady inside was so sweet and very patient with us as we sampled different cheeses, many of which the kids turned up their noses. Mozzarella was the winner and we bought some for the kids to snack on during our trip. It brought back childhood memories of us and when we would eat hard cheese, straight off the block.
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If you didn’t have a reason to visit Minnesota before, the Mall Of America is an addition to any bucket list.
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There certainly were more people there for the attractions and rides than the actual shopping part.

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Who would’ve thought that the kids could ride a few indoor roller coasters and still have a blast?
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The Lego store was a big hit!
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And, of course, like every other mall visit during this trip, Mackenzie was able to add to her American Girl Collection.
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I wonder how often Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri get mistaken for each other! On the Kansas side of Kansas City, we stopped at the famous T-Rex Café.
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The prices were high but the kids enjoyed the atmosphere.

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We’ve consumed a LOT of McDonald’s on this trip. I’m talking daily trips for coffee, frappes, milkshakes, fries, and apple slices! You would think that we were tired of seeing arches by now, but the Gateway Arch in St. Louis was a must see!
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It didn’t look so high or big at first but seeing the tiny windows along the top gave a prospective of just how huge it really is.
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We heard that you have to try Imo’s Pizza while in St. Louis and although William doesn’t eat pizza, he claims that he tried it. If you call putting it up to your mouth, sticking your tooth in it, and instantly taking it away as “trying” it, then yeah, he tried it! The kids loved it, which was a shock considering it was thin crust!!
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Perhaps, the most amazing thing about the St. Louis Zoo was the fact that, though it was free, the quality of the zoo was not sacrificed. We couldn’t help but think of all of the kids that are able to visit the zoo, who would not be able to if it wasn’t free.
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To say that it was hot, would be an understatement. We weren’t the only ones toasting, almost every animal was laid out in the shade, under a rock, or just plain hiding from the sun.
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Though we hated to throw in the towel, we had to leave after about an hour. We were all super sweaty!
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A good friend of ours told us that we had to try Pappy’s BBQ and it did not disappoint! Thankfully, we phoned in the order because it was PACKED (always a good sign ) The line was wrapped around the outside of the building and the to-go line requires you to just stand outside the kitchen and grab someone as they come out.
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On the way out of the city this morning, the sweet owner of a local donut shop asked if we are retired. We got to enjoy a nice ten minute conversation with her. Please join us in praying for her as she is dealing with some financial issues and recently was given custody of her 3 year old grandson. #thomas6travels #48statesover48dates

Mount Rushmore

A little known history fact: the same sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who was contracted to carve Stone Mountain’s design in Georgia, was also the one enlisted to create the four figure monument on Mount Rushmore. Going through the museum and seeing the workers, on the face of the cliff, really gives you an idea of how massive the project was!
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We LOVE old cemeteries! We have visited them in Gatlinburg, in Savannah, in New Orleans, and when we heard about Keystone Cemetery (also known as Mountain View Cemetery), we knew we had to go!

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It is said to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the US. Among those buried there are some of the workers of Mount Rushmore. The view of the mountain, from the cemetery, was breathtaking!

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As a family, we LOVE fresh taffy! So, when we saw this place, right outside of Mount Rushmore, we made our way to it!

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Every roadtrip book, TV show, and guide says that you must go to Wall Drugstore in Wall, SD. So, we went and the kids were amazed at the size of the place. If you ever get the chance, we highly recommend stopping there, even if it’s just to say you went 
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Our goal is to eventually stay at all of the Jellystone Campgrounds in America and Canada. The one in Sioux Falls was nice and the kids were able to enjoy a few hours of basketball, playground time, and more s’mores! They even had a place where the kids could borrow DVDs, so we had to check out the Yogi Bear Movie while staying at Jellystone Park.
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We don’t have much experience in camping or RVing but I can say that we were surprised to be the only guests at the campground in Nebraska. Thankfully, it was just because we were early arriving, as 6-7 more campers pulled up as the night went on. The kids had fun playing outside and eating s’mores after dinner.
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To be honest, we were ready to get out of the mountains (see previous post about our drive through the Bighorn Mountains), but now that we’re on the flat side of the USA, it is beginning to signal that our trip is coming to an end and we’ll be back home soon. It’s a little overwhelming to think that when we get home, we’ll have a few short days before school starts…which means all of our school shopping has to be done in a day or two…so, I try not to think about it 
#thomas6travels #48statesover48dates

Stars, Stripes, and Scenery

As a kid growing up, there were a few things William hoped he would do every summer at least once.  Somehow the kids got to do it all at one campsite.
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Jellystone Park in Missoula, Montana allowed the kids to play basketball,
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go swimming,
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go to an ice cream social,
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play mini golf,
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and, of course, meet Yogi
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Basketball ended up being more of shooting and chasing than it did actually basketball since there was no fence behind the goal.  But nonetheless, it was still fun!

The best way to cool down from running around is to have a scoop of ice cream.  Don’t know exactly what flavor it was but for we sure did enjoy it.  Yet, somehow we still were not cooled off enough and decided to take a dip in the pool.  That water was freezing but the kids sure didn’t seem to mind.  We talk about it all the time, but kids do not seem to have any grasp of how hot or cold it really is.  As a kid, we would stay outside all day rain or shine, playing kickball or tag or hide and go seek, and never paid attention to the climate.  It is so neat to see our kids do the same.
We saw the most beautiful sunset in Montana!
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In the morning before we left, we played a round of putt putt golf.  Kelly, William, and Phillip all had holes in one.  Phillip’s, perhaps, was the most impressive since he couldn’t even hold the club the correct way.
We all had a great time at Jellystone! Our goal is to, one day, visit all of the Jellystone Parks in the country and in Canada!
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Since we arrived to the west coast, we had been craving Cracker Barrel and were not thinking we would see one again until South Dakota.  To our surprise, there was one in Missoula, MT so we made sure we had breakfast there.
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Not sure if the kids are tired of scenery but we sure are not.  Every single turn looks like it should be on calendar or on a puzzle box.  Montana looks exactly as we envisioned and even then, pictures do not capture the true magnificence of it.
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Pretty sure we didn’t think that we would be watching the fireworks from Yellowstone park when this year started so it was pretty surreal sitting there looking at the kids enamored at the colors in the sky.
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Phillip could even enjoy them from his bed!
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Inside of Yellowstone, on the Montana side, is the 46th parallel, which is halfway between the equator and the north pole.  What made it so neat is it was something that we had not seen while planning the trip.
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Many of the signs on the roads said to be careful for the wildlife and to not feed them, but the animals we saw were in the distance.  That is until this guy decided to take up both lanes in the highway and slowly meander past us.  It was pretty cool.  He seemed to be saying, “I will take my time, my ancestors were here well before y’all.”
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The first hot springs, Mammoth Hot Springs, was amazing, simply because we had never seen anything like that before, except on TV.
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But then they kept showing up along our drive. However, nothing can prepare you for the eruption of Old Faithful.  Somehow, the park rangers have devised a way to precisely time the eruption and it was amazing to see it. Maybe why it’s called Old Faithful! Though it put us a little behind schedule it was well worth it.
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What really put us behind was the fog, rain, and hills that we drove through to get to our stop that night.  Though we tried not to show our concern, the kids could sense it.
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What was most comforting though was knowing that the prayers that Madison, Mackenzie, and Macey were lifting up, in the back seats, were being heard by the same, big, great God, who created the mountains at creation, caused rain to come for the first time during the flood, and allows the fog to water his foliage.  The God of all knew the turns and could see through the fog and brought us safely to our stop.

When we checked in, the owners made a huge deal about how that road is not road for traveling, especially if you are pulling an RV behind you.  All of the locals couldn’t believe that we didn’t take the other road in.  We sure would have if we knew about it, but then we wouldn’t be able to tell you about what God did either.  So it all worked out.

Thanks for praying for our safety as we know that God heard your prayers over this terrain.  Pray that we continue to be intentional with our witness and that God continue to keep us healthy.

#thomas6travels #48statesover48dates

Dreams are coming true, prayers are being answered, and memories are being made!

While we have been gone for half of our planned trip, we just now really went camping…or at least, the Thomas way of camping! In Westport, Washington we had our first dinner outside at the picnic table,
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the kids played on an old school playground,
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and we followed it by an open fire and smores.
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That’s our idea of camping 🙂

For us two adults, we like scenery, museums, and learning about new areas of the country, but the kids needed a break from all that fun so we took them to the Go Kart track.  This was Mackenzie’s first time being old enough and tall enough to drive! The owner was super nice and graciously walked her through everything she needed to know.
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His advice worked because she beat all of us! It was neat seeing their personalities as they drove…Gig-Up was wanting to win, Macey was screaming her head off, Mackenzie was ripping around the course, and Madison was cautious at every turn.  We had a blast!
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We kept seeing these mini coffee shops everywhere and finally decided to stop at one. William was able to pray with the barista, as she is pregnant with her first baby. I think she was caught off guard a little at first to be sitting there praying while making coffee but she was very grateful!
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The Space Needle wasn’t as big as we thought but it was still neat to see the landmark. 
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But the best sight coming out of Seattle was Mount Rainer. 
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Perhaps one of the neatest things about our trip is the excitement the kids have of getting to the next stop.  Our stop in Moses Lake had a slide at the pool, so we knew that the kids were going to love it.  Macey is getting braver by the minute and even went down the slide a few times.
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While checking in at the RV park, we noticed a scripture verse at the coffee table… it’s ALWAYS comforting to see God’s Word in public places!
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Within two hours of leaving Washington we would pass through two states.  We stopped in Wallace Idaho to see where they shot the film Dante’s Peak.  Kelly loves that movie so it was cool to see the buildings and streets that were in the movie.
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Every day, on every road, we see so many beautiful sights and take more photos than we know what to do with 🙂
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We are doing things and going places that we didn’t even know to think of a few years ago and each day brings a new memory.  Please continue to pray for us.

#thomas6travels #48statesover48dates