Springfield or Bust – on May 9th, we headed off to Springfield, MA to attend the college graduation of our niece, Sophie Neuhaus. We didn’t pull the Airstream on this trip because we were staying with family in a rented farmhouse not far from the college. Along the way, we stopped at a town park to visit the statue of Samuel Chapin who helped establish the town of Springfield in 1643. My great aunt, Norma Hoover, had provided a detailed family tree which showed my connection to Samuel Chapin through my great grandmother, Marjorie Chapin Peterson. Bonnie snapped a photo of me and my ancestor and we immediately noticed how similar to him I look in appearance.

Samuel Chapin and Dan
Me and Deacon Samuel Chapin
Samuel Chapin
Samuel “Dan” Chapin (Thanks to brother-in-law David Neuhaus for this incredible Photoshop edit – hilarious !!!)

Graduation Numero Uno – back to the real purpose of this trip – we are so very proud of our niece, Sophie Neuhaus, for working through (3) very rigorous years of graduate school to earn her Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from American International College. She was recognized at the graduation ceremony for superior growth and academic accomplishment by her professors with a special award called the Chrysalis Award. Sophie delivered an incredible speech at the commencement ceremony which showcased her fantastic sense of humor. Below are some photos that captured this important event in Sophie’s life….

Sophie delivering graduation speech
Doctoral Hooding Ceremony
Sophie & family celebrating her graduation
Proud Grandpa, Don Wilder, and his grand daughters (Val & Sophie)
Sophie & crazy family members
Cool statues in need of physical therapy
Smiling Dr. Sophie Neuhaus !!!

Natural Bridge, VA – RV Test Trip #2! One week later we headed off to New Jersey to attend another college graduation ceremony for our niece Valerie Neuhaus. This time we towed the Airstream. We traveled for several hours to our first layover, Natural Bridge VA. Bonnie took her first turn at pulling the Airstream down a major highway. She was quite nervous and very cautious. She quickly realized, as I did, that the Airstream is very easy to tow. In fact, at times it might be too easy to tow because you tend to forget it is there which is something you don’t want to do. When towing a 7,600 pound travel trailer you can’t stop or make corrections as quickly as you can in a car. Bonnie did great and is much more comfortable towing now. Here is my lovely wife at the wheel ….

Bonnie gives her “thumbs up” sign
Bonnie at the wheel for the first time…

We camped overnight at Natural Bridge KOA in the beautiful state of Virginia and spent the next day visiting Natural Bridge State Park which was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. This state park is an incredible sight to see and admission was only $8 per person. I highly recommend that everyone stop and see this special place which is easily found off of I-81. Check out these great photos of Natural Bridge that Bonnie took…

Natural Bridge
Description of Natural Bridge
Beautiful river at Natural Bridge State Park
Road into Natural Bridge KOA
Our RV site at Natural Bridge KOA
Grabbed a sandwich here – Live Bait & Ice Cream is one of my favorite menu combinations !!!

Next Stop New Jersey! New jersey is home for Bonnie. This was a great trip to see family and experience more of NJ for myself. Let me state that I do like NJ and it is named the Garden State for a reason. Many areas are very green with lots of gardens, farms, and parks. There are a few things that were not my favorite but very nostalgic for Bonnie such as not being able to pump your own gas. I guess it employs a lot of people in NJ but takes way longer to get gas. There are jug handles and roundabouts all over the place – lots of them. You can’t make very many left hand turns because you have to exit right off the highway and use a jug handle instead. Also, there is legendary “stand still” NJ traffic which we got to experience as we got closer to NYC since we arrived later in the day on a Wednesday afternoon at about 4 pm…

Infamous bumper to bumper traffic in NJ

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation – we stayed for several days at a wonderful county park in northern New Jersey called the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. The park is 3,200 acres with over 20 miles of trails and only 18 RV campsites. We hiked several well marked trails before traveling to meet our family for a train ride into Newark, NJ for the college graduation ceremony. Here are some nice photos which show the beauty of this natural preserve located in Morris County, NJ. This was our first “back-in” site. We had practiced backing up the Airstream on “test trip #1” but this was the real deal. The road and site we had were a bit tight but we did it with no major accidents, issues, or arguments! It is truly a team effort when navigating and backing up a 28 foot long Airstream.

Scenic road into Mahlon Dickerson Reservation
Our RV camp site at Mahlon Dickerson
View out our kitchen window

Graduation Numero Dos – we are extremely proud of our niece, Valerie Neuhaus, who earned a Bachelor of Sociology degree from Montclair State and attained advanced certifications for teaching elementary education. She is currently working as a substitute teacher and has applied for a full time teaching position. Here are some great photos taken during Valerie’s graduation commencement in Newark and our visit to NJ…

Graduation ceremony at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ (home of NJ Devils hockey team)
Niece Valerie Neuhaus with her diploma
Valerie with proud parents Sue & Dave Neuhaus
Valerie with boyfriend Rob
Aunt Bonnie & Niece Valerie making a face (Sophie is photo bombing them)
Dan & hockey player sculpture in front of Prudential Center
View of revitalized Newark, NJ
Valerie & family at her graduation party
Sophie Neuhaus and girlfriend Courtney Alstadt strike a pose
We survived an escape room challenge without killing each other
Tasty Cake for Graduation

Yard of the Month – we left New Jersey and stopped overnight to have dinner with our daughter, Aja Korzi, and extended family in Fredericksburg, PA. She and close friend, Jess, landscaped the entire yard and did a really nice job worthy of mention in “House Beautiful” magazine in my opinion. Aja surprised us with two RV themed wall hangings as a 20th anniversary gift – it’s hard to believe that Bonnie has put up with me for 20 years !!! Bonnie says the husband training program is progressing slowly so I figure she needs another 30 years to get me fully trained. Below are some pictures of a really nice yard…

Landscape planter at Aja house
Awesome stone planter in front yard
Landscape planter 2 at Aja house
Back yard planter is fantastic
Landscape planter 3 at Aja house
Really nice deck in the back
Happy Campers Yellow
This is our new home page logo !!!

My Duck Posse – the next day, as we headed towards the Shenandoah Valley region of VA and stopped overnight at a nice scenic RV park called Walnut Hills near Staunton, VA. Our assigned camp site was near a stream that had several friendly ducks which were used to being fed by visitors. We bought a small bag of duck food from the campground store and I immediately established a close rapport with my new “duck posse” as shown below.

Duck posse and Dan at Walnut Hills
Dan & his “Duck Posse”
Hungry ducks at Walnut Hills
Hungry ducks waiting for food
Beautiful tree view at Walnut Hills campground site
Gorgeous tree in bloom at our camp site
RV site at Walnut Hills in Staunton VA
Scenic Walnut Hills campground (see our Airstream way down the hill)

So Many Airstreams – next we rolled out to a fantastic Airstream only park located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It is called Virginia Highland Haven and is operated as a private park by Airstream owners. This park is located near the folksy mountain town of Floyd where we celebrated Bonnie’s birthday on June 2nd by eating great food and listening to blue grass music at The Country Store. This restaurant is also a music venue because blue grass musicians have played there for years and it is considered part of the “Crooked Trail” for Appalachian music lovers. We met many wonderful people during this trip and enjoyed several fantastic days at this beautiful park with an unbelievable mountain views !!! Check out these photos…

Airstreams at Virginia Highland Haven
So many Airstreams to see…
Mountain view from Virginia Highland Haven park
Mountain view from Virginia Higland Haven park
Sunset 2 at Virginia Highland Haven park
Incredible sunset at Virginia Highland Haven
Sunset at Virginia Highland Haven
Another incredible sunset at Virginia Highland Haven
Krissy guiding us down the road
Krissy the friendly guide dog led us down the entrance road to the park
View3 from road into Highlands Haven
Beautiful rolling hills in VA
Bonnie's bday lunch in Floyd VA
Bonnie’s birthday lunch at The Country Store in Floyd, VA. This type of meal reminded Bonnie of her mom’s home cooking.

Home Base – landed back in Charlotte on June 7th and parked our Airstream next to a nice boat at the storage facility. We will stay in Charlotte for a couple of weeks before heading out on our next adventure (test trip #3) to visit friends in SC before we hit the road for our year long trip. Bonnie and I learn new things on each “test trip” which helps us prepare for full-time RV living. Stay tuned for Bonnie’s post about trip planning and lessons learned so far…

Our shiny Airstream parked next to a really NICE boat !!!