Road Trip (by Jonny)

Not sure why Silas is pouty.  Lark took this picture.  I think he was ready to head into the hotel, but I was too busy dithering in the van.

This past week, I headed south to the annual Aurora Fossil Festival in North Carolina.  Ginny stayed at home with Job, but the rest of the crew came.  We had a pretty darn good time.  I love getting outdoors with the kids, and we all like searching for sharks’ teeth.  Although this was only our second year going, it is sure to be an annual trip for our family.

We arrived in Greenville on Wednesday afternoon.  After checking in, we headed over to Green Mill Run.  The “hot” light was on, so I had to stop.  “I’ll take one dozen doughnuts please…actually, make that two”.   When Ginny isn’t around to keep me in check, I have a hard time staying away from junk food.  I know its best to keep it local and organic.  But, Krispy Kreme doesn’t have that option, oh well.

We spent the rest of the day “fossilin” up and down the creek.  When it got too dark to see, we headed back to the hotel.  Because I have to feed these growing people, I found a Piggly Wiggly and stocked up on corn dogs, baked beans, peanut butter, jelly, popcorn, milk and pinto beans.  Again, not the best in the food department.  But, we were on vacation.

Thursday we woke up and headed to Aurora.  We visited the museum and searched in the fossil rich dirt brought in from a local mine.  After a respite that included Slush Puppies, we headed south and caught a ferry across Neuse River to walk the beach at Pine Cliff Recreation Area.  We found several small teeth, but the kids spent most of the time just playing in a creek that flowed into the river.  It was actually a nice little spot, with cypress trees and clean sand.   After everyone was good and wet, with only Silas having on a proper “bath suit”, we headed back toward Greenville the long way.  Driving through New Bern, we found a YMCA, and since we are members (well, through June 14th at least-making budget cuts), we headed in for an impromptu evening swim.  I think dinner this night was Taco Bell…I know I know…

Friday morning found us back at Green Mill Run.  The hotel had a coffee pot, but I didn’t want to bother with that.  So, on the way, I stopped at yet another national fast food chain to purchase a McCoffee…Beatrix mentioned ice cream.   I told her “no way”, then promptly added 7 dip cones to my order.  After parking the van at the creek, a little boy came running up to Bea and Lark.  He politely introduced himself and asked them if they wanted to play.  His mother then came up and introduced herself, and mentioned that she knew everyone’s name because she was a reader of Ginny’s blog.  Small world; I love it.  We visited with her family for a while.  They had spent the morning in the creek, and her husband found this really cool old whiskey bottle.  Knowing that Seth would really like it, they gave it to him.  It made him very happy.  We then headed to the creek ourselves, and spent the afternoon fishing and finding more fossils.  When we got back to the van, I looked in the mirror.  To my horror (and slight amusement) I saw chocolate on my face in two places…just above my lip, and all over my cheek.  So, it seems that I made new friends while covered in chocolate…we spent the rest of the day back at Aurora digging through the spoils pile and fishing in the Pamlico River.

Saturday we returned to Aurora.  We fossil hunted some, watched some music being played, and cheered on some tractors.  Ice cream came before the fried pickles and hot dog/cheeseburger lunch.   Muscadine/blackberry slushies came next.   Right about now, poor Bea couldn’t handle it.  Her tummy started to hurt.  She was miserable; poor Bea.  It seems that the last onslaught of unhealthiness was too much for her.  Around 6pm we decided to head home to Virginia so Keats and Gabe could make their baseball tournament on Sunday.  About an hour into the tip, Bea erupted in the back seat.  I really should have seen this coming and have provided her with a bucket, but I didn’t.  I exited off the highway and parked next to a field of some sort of flowery crop to clean up the scene.  The kids all wandered around while I worked on the van.  Bea announced to me, “Daddy, these plants seem to be in the mint family because they have a square stem”.  Beats me, I really don’t know whose in whose family.  But, apparently Bea does because Ginny has agreed that they appear to be in the mint family.   Although, we still haven’t been able to figure out what this crop is.  There were thousands of acres of this planted throughout this part of NC.  Does anyone know what it is?  It looks like a giant catnip…

updated:  thanks to a reader tip off, we now know that this is Clary Sage!  And Bea was right–totally in the mint family 🙂

We all had a good time.  But, we are glad to be back.  When we were almost home, Seth said, “I’ll be glad to have some real food again”.  Figures.


  1. So funny. Every year before school starts my husband and kids go camping at our hunting land. I don’t even want to know how much junk they consume…probably pretty close to your list. And they proudly tell me, “Dad doesn’t make us get clean before we go to bed like you do.” I think half of the fun of the camp…well,maybe more than half, is that mom is not there, and that is ok by me.

  2. This is a great post & sounds like a truly great trip. Kudos to anyone taking a road trip as the only adult with more than one small child (we have three and that proves difficult for me at times). The sage photos are beautiful–would love to see fields of that instead of corn here in Iowa. I hope Bea is feeling better.

  3. Jonny,

    It was a pleasure meeting you and your family. That was the first time I was confronted with the idea of “internet friends,” people you “know” because you read about their lives on the web. Bizarre. I wished we could have talked more. I had tons of questions. I hope your boy enjoys that bottle. I thought it was pretty cool, but my days of collecting things are over (for now). We move too much with the Navy to keep too much excess stuff around the house. I did not notice the chocolate on your face, and neither did Cristina, so don’t worry.

    We must have been driving by each other on Saturday. We were at the fossil festival by 8 and gone by noon (or just after the parade ended, not sure when). We took a bucket of dirt home with us, so we are going to continue our fossil hunting out back this weekend.

    We are expecting our 4th child soon, so I was definitely checking out your full-sized van. I am not sure when I have to upgrade our 2001 Honda Odyssey, but it is getting tight in there.

    Again, it was great to meet you. You have a wonderful family.

    Chris Reintjes

    P.S. Sorry for calling you John as soon as you told me your name was Jonny. I have a tendency to shorten names. I felt bad as soon as I did it.

  4. Loved it. 😀

  5. Wonderful time away with dad – and oh boy the memories they all made. Great stuff!

  6. Ha! This sounds just like my husband with the girls – although, all of a sudden after massive amounts of junk food, he’ll get all healthy and make them eat a ton of fruit and hummus, or something like that.

    Great post!

  7. Johnny, if you keep raising the bar, not a one of us will be happy with our husbands! I’m glad at least you fed them junk food — kept it a little more real. Of course my husband would have lost it with the poor child who didn’t have the foresight to politely ask you to pull over so she could vomit in the mint instead of the van. 😉

  8. One great dad you are taking 6 children on a holiday all by yourself. I wouldn’t even have attempted it but it sounds like it all went perfectly except the tummy troubles. I started to read the post and was thinking to myself “I wonder when and which child is going to throw up.” LOL! I used to keep plastic buckets in my car all the time for just this type of emergency.

  9. Charlotte says:

    Oh this was brilliant! Sounds like a great holiday and the food details made me laugh!!

  10. Jessi Roullier says:

    I love this post! I’m not one to usually “comment” but this was great. Totally a dad’s perspective. Keep it comin’ xo

  11. Ok lady says:

    I loved this post!

  12. I loved reading this and laughed several times – what a great dad to take 6 on vacation and think of great things to do. Your kids are really lucky to have thoughtful and adventurous parents~!

  13. We were so excited to run into your family at the creek! And tell Jonny not to worry, I didn’t even notice the ice cream on his face. The kids though–the kids were covered 🙂

  14. Fantastic guest post!

  15. I loved this 🙂

  16. beth lehman says:

    the fossil hunting sounds so so fun!! (the puking in the car… not so much!!) how would you advise hunting in this area if the festival is not going on? can you just go and hunt?? this sounds like such a great summer venture for our kids!!

  17. Yay! I was so looking forward to this post!! My fossil rich sand buckets just arrived today, I can’t wait to get started! XO

  18. Beautiful pictures – your life always looks so idyllic! Did you find any shark teeth?!

  19. This was so amusing! Jonny is so funny, but he also did great job on the writing! I loved it. poor Bea 🙁 It’s a good thing momma cares so much about her family to feed them well and keep them from getting stomach aches! Hard work really does pay off.

  20. Sounds like a great weekend. My in-laws live down in an area called Pamlico Beach, NC, so it was interesting to read this year and last about your adventures in Aurora. I sometimes forget after the 7+ hour drive from northern Virginia to what we call the “end of the earth”–because of no cell or Internet service –what a pretty area this is and I wonder why my husband never brought us to Aurora to fossil hunt while my kids were little! I love the beach area that Jonny found on the Pamlico River! The area my in-laws live at no longer has any beach to play along as it did when the kids were little, so I may have to drag everyone on the ferry the next time we are there! And thanks for identifying the clary sage. I had asked my husband what is was on the drive back yesterday and he just knew it was some kind of herb.

  21. Thank God Job wasn’t along, right?

    My elder dd, who is quite a bit like Seth, said, “I wouldn’t even eat it if he tried to give it to me!” And “I knew it,” when Bea got sick.

  22. Hahahahah OMG this was too funny! I’ll be sure to remember this for when I have kids (and now I won’t let my husband take them on a road trip. Ever! 🙂 )

    Despite the junk-food-related mishaps, it sounds like a fun trip!

  23. I suspect those are tobacco plants 😉

  24. This made me smile. I do not often eat fast food, but spent a summer in Mississippi (from England as an archaeology intern with your Forestry Service) and oh, how I need Taco Bell right now!! What a cool trip.

  25. Sounds like a fun and exciting trip! How fun that you ran into fans of the blog. I can’t help with the plant id sorry.

  26. Thank you for sharing, looks a very nice time, I wonder how you manage with so many kids, I think you have a beautiful family.

  27. Jonny is the best! You are such a blessed woman. Loved this.

  28. Absolutely amazing pictures! The story is so funny!

  29. I loved this. He tells a great story.

  30. Oh this post made me giggle so much!
    I’m surprised you didn’t have more exploding in the van than just poor Bea 🙂

  31. Great “guest” post!

  32. What a great read! It’s funny, because it’s true. 🙂

  33. Possibly catnip/catmint?

    Even with all the junk food, it looks like a wonderful binding time with dad!

  34. Do you think it might be horseradish? or a type of plant like it.

  35. Beautiful flowers, looks like dotted mint.

  36. Nothing like excess to get everyone back on the right track! Ginny, it should be a relief to you to know that your husband can carry on with your blog if you ever need a break. 😀 Very enjoyable post.

  37. I think the plants in the field might be quinoa. They at least look like chenopodiums to me. But they also kind of look like salvia which is odd. Do you know around which city in NC you saw them?

    • Thanks for your input! I just looked up pictures online of quinoa plants, and I see some similarity, but don’t think that’s what they are. I was thinking Lamiaceae as far as the family goes (Salvia would be part of that)–the square stems, leaf arrangement and flower structure point that way, and the kids said that the leaves are super fragrant. It’s driving us crazy trying to figure out what they are! Jonny says that there were literally thousands of acres planted in this plant. They were planted all around the Greenville area.

  38. How fun that your family was in our little corner..we didn’t make it to the festival but we love visiting Aurora and live outside of Greenville. It looks like you all had a wonderful time! And for Jonny, here is a link to a site that helps identify native NC plants. I confess that I don’t know the name of the plant in your photos, but maybe it is here.

  39. Funny how the kids get sick of junk food before some adults – 2 weeks ago we were at a graduation reception (around lunchtime) – all the food was sweets of various types. My six-year-old looked around in horror and said, “But don’t they have any FOOD??” Sounds like everybody had a great time with their dad though!

  40. I just happened upon a “Jonny” story about Silas being “lost” in the chicken coop from a long time ago and thought it was hilarious and sweet. And now- another! I am so impressed with Jonny taking off with a bunch of kids and actually wanting to. That sounds bad but my husband would never do that. It IS impressive. He’s a keeper.

    And I love the “real food” comment. Able to enjoy the occasional slurpie but appreciating the good stuff.

    You are raising them right!

  41. So glad they all had a great time! Oh Bea erupting in the van reminded me of my Caitlin doing it at about the same age. We were speeding home to try to avoid the “even” and I got pulled over by a constable. He walked up to my door and we recognized each other from church. Just about that time Caitlin let it go! The constable/friend just told me to get home quick and be safe :))). But oh is it hard to get that smell out of the car
    ( and the Barbie she happened to be holding).

    Thank you again for the Giveaway! It has been amazing!

  42. Jonny is clearly not alone! Even when I leave my husband and kids with pre-made meals, they still manage to find plenty of junk food to eat. Thank goodness for mamas. 😉 It looks like they had a fabulous time though!

  43. This sounds EXACTLY the same as our house. I leave the kids alone with their Dad for one afternoon…. I am astonished at the amount of junk food they can get their hands on! So funny! But a few Crispie Creams never killed anyone. I’m glad everyone had a fun, safe trip.

  44. Haha! Thanks for sharing Jonny!

  45. Ok, this made me laugh because my husband is kind of prone to the junk food thing when he’s got the kids but not me along. 😉

  46. I love this!! My husband too cannot pass up the junk food when he’s out with the children.

  47. So great!

  48. Sounds like a great time! Yeah, better food can be a good thing but fun to be on vacation too! We’ve been eating at a new to us local diner near our new place and in 1 week my parents, husband and I have been there 5 times! They are Greek and so the hostess always says ‘Christ is Risen’ in Greek because my husband first said it to her, after seeing the icons (many NJ diners are Greek owned) 🙂 Hopefully by next week I will be cooking in my new home!

    I must say, beautiful pictures! that one of the green and water is really really lovely. How special for a weekend with Dad; these moments will never be forgotten! 🙂

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