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Back Home! Douglasville, Georgia - 07/10/2011

Published at 9:37 PM in ,

Really, do I need to say more? We are finally back home!  The drive from Tennessee was fine, although there was another detour involved, but I will spare you the boring details.  What matters is that we made it and are thrilled to be home.  We had a great time, but it is even greater to be here.  35 days is a LONG time!

We will update you soon!

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Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - 07/09/2011

Published at 10:23 PM in ,

Well, today we were headed into Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for one reason only: Indoor Skydiving.

Michael found this adventure online about a year ago and has wanted to go ever since.  Pigeon Forge isn't really on our way home, but it's not that far off track, either.  But let me tell you, this time, it was no easy task getting there.


All lanes were blocked here, not just 5 miles ahead


We had stopped at a gas station in Williamsburg, Kentucky, just eleven short miles from the TN/KY state line.  After topping off the tank, we hopped back on the interstate and headed south....for about 5 minutes.  And then, traffic came to a complete  S...T...O...P...

We have a CB radio in the motorhome, so we turned that on to see if we could figure out what was going on.  Apparently, there was a HAZMAT spill on the interstate around 2:30AM.  By this time, it was 10:30AM, and the spill still wasn't cleaned up.  Where we got on the interstate was Exit 11, and it was the last exit before the state line, and officials had set up a detour at another exit inside of Tennessee.  So we sat and waited and waited and waited.....for a LONG time. It took us over 3 hours to make it to the detour exit.  Once we got off, we were moving, for a little bit.

The north-bound lanes of I-75 had been shut down and detoured as well.  The problem was that the detour took a mountainous route on a two lane road.  So there were tractor trailers navigating these hairpin turns while competing for space with other frustrated drivers.  At one point, traffic there came to a complete standstill.  A truck was pulling a very large boat - much too big for his truck and the mountains - and stalled on this two lane road.  So now traffic had to take turns passing him.  This added an additional hour or so to our detour.


Creeping towards Tennessee



FINALLY we were back on I-75 south and moving.  The rest of the trip to Pigeon Forge was a breeze, even with the normal heavy traffic there.

We actually made it to the indoor skydiving place, called Flyaway Indoor Skydiving.  For about $30, you get a training class, all equipment, and about fifteen minutes of skydiving time.  You have to share the time with others in your group (maximum of five per group), but the time is much more than you think.  I personally thought they were in there forever!  We also opted for a DVD of their experience.  So this was a kind of pricey experience, but well worth it, and something we had promised.


The instructor was very friendly and did an excellent job training the kids in some basic moves they needed to know, including how to safely land on the side when they were moving out of the way.  He taught them hand signals so that they could communicate with each other over the noise of the wind.  The 'wind' is actually a large wind tunnel.  Professional skydivers use this facility a lot for training and stunt practice.

Ready to go!



The kids suited up, put helmets on, ear plugs in, goggles on, and climbed in the tunnel.  The wind started up and off they went!!


It was so neat to watch, and they had an absolute blast.  It was well worth the trip, and they insist they would like to come back again.


Kids ready to go - the instructor is flying!


Michael's YouTube video of him indoor skydiving!






More pictures in the Photo Gallery!

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Frankfort, Kentucky - 07/08/2011

Published at 8:04 PM in ,

While we are excited about heading towards home, we still have lots of things to do along the way.  Today we spent our time in the capital of Kentucky - Frankfort.

Kentucky State Capitol


We started this rainy day at the capitol building.  It is a beautiful building.  Inside the rotunda, there are five statues of famous Kentuckians.  In the center is Abraham Lincoln, who was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  A bronze statue, the foot has been rubbed for luck so often that it has a polished, shiny finish.  The other famous Kentuckians are Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, Henry Clay, known as the 'Great Compromiser', Alben Barkley, 35th Vice President under Harry Truman, and Dr. Ephraim McDowell, famous Kentucky surgeon that removed the first ovarian tumor (WITHOUT anesthesia, I might add!!)


LED lights in the dome



The rotunda is unique because there are LED lights installed in the dome, which cycle through about four colors.  It gives it a pretty and very modern touch.


Part of the First Lady Dolls collection



Another neat feature about this capitol is the display of "First Lady" dolls.  There is a porcelain doll representing each wife of Kentucky's line of governors.  The dresses of each doll are a reproduction of what the First Lady wore to the inaugural ball.  Kentucky has had only one female governor, Martha Layne Collins, and she is included in the collection.

There is also a pneumatic tube system that was previously used in the capitol that can still be seen within the building.  Much like the systems used in bank drive-thrus today, it was neat to show the kids how it worked within a building.


One of the founder of Rebecca-Ruth



After the capitol, we went down the street to the home of bourbon balls - Rebecca-Ruth Candy Factory.  This courageous duo created their candy company in 1919, before women were even allowed to vote.  Rebecca Gooch sold her share of the company to Ruth Booe in 1929.  Continuing to try new things, this is where the original Bourbon Balls were invented by Ruth in the early 1930s, her most famous being the Mint Kentucky Colonel.

The tour of the factory, which is housed in an old house, was only $2 per person!  It was hard to believe that a company as large as Rebecca-Ruth operates out of such a tiny place.  We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the factory, due to trade secrets, but we did take some in their store.  In the front of the factory is a small kitchen were all the candy centers are created, starting in the same copper pot.  Further inside the factory is where the flavors are added and  various machines coat the candy pieces in chocolate.  Some of them remind me of the conveyor belt scene from that one episode of "I Love Lucy."  I think you know which one I mean!  At the end of the line, each candy is hand packaged and readied to be sold or shipped.


<--- Factory Tours this way <---


The tour ended back in the store with a treat - a complimentary Bourbon Ball, laced with Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon - for the adults only!  The kids were offered their choice of 'kid friendly' candy from the display cases.  I have never been much of a drinker, and let me tell you, in my opinion, this was like a straight shot of bourbon!  I couldn't even finish it.  The ladies seemed surprised that I felt there was too much bourbon in it, saying they have customers come in first thing in the morning and say there isn't enough bourbon.  Well, good for them!  I opted to try some peanut butter fudge instead.  It, on the other hand, was fantastic!!



Historic Frankfort, Kentucky



Overall, it was a lot of fun to take a peek inside a candy factory.  It was a great finish to the day!  You can order your own Bourbon Balls from the Rebecca-Ruth website.


Photo Gallery for today is available HERE.

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Louisville, Kentucky Day 2 - 07/07/2011

Published at 8:19 PM in ,

Ok, can I just say that Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum is quite possibly the best place we've visited on this trip?  It was amazing, and I'm not really even a 'horse' person.  I think it might be because the Kentucky Derby is such a part of American culture, and the history of the Derby and Churchill Downs is so interesting.  Horse racing is not a simple sport!  Who knew so much went into these horses and the races??  Horse people know, I guess.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is right outside of Churchill Downs.  I always imagined that Churchill Downs would be out in the country somewhere, but no, it is right in the city of Louisville.  The museum is quite affordable and includes a tour of the grounds of Churchill Downs.  They offer more in depth and behind the scenes tours, but this tour fit our needs (and budget!).

Just inside the museum is a starting gate to go through to the main exhibits.  The first exhibit included some of the outrageous hats worn to the Derby, as well as some of the outfits people have worn.  A dress worn by Anna Nicole Smith is on display, as well as Penny Chenery's, the owner of "Secretariat", dress that she wore to the 1973 Kentucky Derby.


Collection of Derby hats

There is a main theatre in the museum that plays a movie about the Derby.  The neat part is that it is an oval shaped room, and the screen goes around it a full 360 degrees.  You almost feel like you are in a race yourself!

There are a ton of exhibits in the museum, from the history of the race to the jockeys and owners.  There is information on the successful horse farms and how they are designed and run.  Another important part of the museum is the information on the Kentucky Oaks, which is run by fillies the day before the Derby.

A display of the "Lilies for the Fillies" for the Kentucky Oaks

The museum is VERY interactive.  From audio displays to trying your hand (or mouth, in this case) as a race announcer, there is something to keep everyone interested in the museum.  There is a three horse video game race, which Rachael won EVERY time!  Michael couldn't stand it that she beat him, but finally just had to admit that she was better at the game.  There was also a display that explained how betting on the races works.  You could also 'bet' on a few races, watch them, and see how you have done on your 'bets.'


Video game horse race

We eventually moved on to our grounds tour.  It began in the courtyard where every winner of the Derby has their name posted.  All of the Triple Crown winners have their names in gold.  We were very excited to look for Secretariat's name and take our picture underneath it.

We got to see the area where the horses are saddled and mounted, all of the betting windows, and into the stands.  We got to go right up to the edge of the track, where you could go onto it if you wanted.  The track is well maintained throughout the year, as horses train there even when it is not racing season.  The care of the track is a science in itself, making sure it is the right mixture of dirt, sand, water, and whatever else is there. (There was an exhibit on that, too.)


Right on the track!

Surprisingly, most races at Churchill Downs are extremely affordable, with ticket prices ranging from $3.00 to $33.00.  Of course tickets are much more than that in some seats for the Derby and Oaks, but it makes it possible for most people to enjoy the fun.


This year's winner's silks



Another neat feature to see in the museum and on the grounds are the winner's silks.  There are little jockey statues around holding various signs.  The shirts (or 'silks') of the jockeys are repainted every year to match the silks of the Derby winner.  This year Animal Kingdom was the Derby winner, and his jockey's silks are green and red.



There are lots of neat pictures to see in the Photo Gallery, so be sure to check it out.

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Louisville, Kentucky Day 1 - 07/06/2011

Published at 8:03 PM in , ,

Today we drove out to Louisville, Kentucky, from Indianapolis. It was a short little drive, right around two hours.  Our plan was to first see the Louisville Slugger museum and factory.  We love baseball, so we were really looking forward to this.   


Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory


The museum is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River.  We weren't sure where we were going to park, but once again we were very fortunate to find plenty of parking.  When we are towing the truck behind the RV, we take up about three metered parking spaces.  So as along as we have quarters for the meters, this works out pretty well.  We wound up only about two blocks from the museum.



Babe Ruth's bat with the notches in it



They have all sorts of baseball bat memorabilia in the museum.  You can actually hold and swing the bats of some baseball greats like Mickey Mantle and Cal Ripkin Jr.  They do make you wear gloves, though, to preserve the bats. There are also wax figures of Babe Ruth, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Ted Williams.  The museum also has a lot of interactive exhibits, films, and artifacts.  Many bats that were used in history making games are on display.



Wax replica of the factory


The factory tour was really interesting.  They don't allow pictures inside the factory, but they did have a wax replica of what part of the factory looks like (picture above).  Louisville Slugger made baseball bats by hand up until 1980.  It would take about thirty minutes to make a bat by hand.  Today, using lathes, a bat can be made in about thirty seconds.  Louisville Slugger has ONE special lathe, made in Italy, that make all the bats for Major League Baseball players that have contracts with them.  Not all players have to use Louisville Slugger, but 70% of all major league players do.  The signatures of all of those players that have had contracts with Louisville Slugger are on display in the museum lobby.  It was fun to search for the names of the greats.



Mickey Mantle's signature




Bats from the 2010 All-Star & World Series winners



At the end of the museum tour, every visitor gets a mini-bat.  This is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Louisville.  You can visit the Louisville Slugger Museum web site for more information.



"Happy Birthday To You" Tribute


On the walk back to the RV, we found a unique tribute in a tiny little park.  It was a tribute to Mildred Jane Hill and Patty Smith Hill.  Both women were pioneers in the field of education, and Patty Hill started one of the first Kindergartens in Louisville.  But their most famous achievement is the writing of one of America's most well-known songs, "Happy Birthday To You."




Sam and his stick



Later, as we were using a dump site to flush our sanitation system, the kids were outside playing with Sam.  He found a stick, one he liked very much.  We had a hard time convincing him it wouldn't fit in the RV.  Silly dog!


There are more pictures in the Photo Gallery, who's nose do you think Michael picked?

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Indianapolis, Indiana Day 2 - 07/05/2011

Published at 8:23 PM in , ,





Today we had a couple of things planned, and we hoped to get them all done in time to head out to Louisville, Kentucky.



Our growing postcard collection


But before I tell you about that, I want to share a little thing we do for souvenirs.  We do let the kids get something they would like to have every now and then.  In the RV, though, we just don't have a lot of room for extra 'things.'  Everywhere we go, we buy a postcard, sometimes two, of what we have done.  Then we punch a hole in it and put it on a ring. One of Jim's cousins in Delaware started the ring for us a few years ago when we went for a visit.  We thought it was such an awesome idea.  On the back we write the date we visited and anything memorable we want to add.  It doesn't take up much room and is great for remembering what all you have done.  So now we have a nice little collection going of everything we've done.  Thanks for the idea, Anne Rees! :)


First, we had to get Jim's prescriptions filled.  While this wouldn't normally be a big deal, but his prescriptions have a lot of restrictions on them, so some pharmacies aren't anxious to fill them, especially from out of state.  We almost always use the same pharmacy, CVS, which is nationwide, so this definitely helped. The pharmacy closest to us didn't carry the medicine we needed, but they were very kind and called around until they found one that did.  That was great customer service.


On the second floor of the capitol



The next thing we headed out to do was to visit the Indiana capitol in downtown Indianapolis.  It was too late in the day for the last guided tour, but we were able to get a self-tour pamphlet and wander around on our own.  It was a beautiful building.  


Future attorneys and judges


Our favorite room became the Indiana State Court of Appeals.  There was a state police officer who was locking up the top floor where we were, and he offered to show us the room where the Court of Appeals is held.  Not only did he unlock the room, he encouraged the children get up there in the judges' seats!  I asked him if was he sure it was okay.  He said, "I'm a state officer!  I AM who you would get in trouble with!"  We laughed and had the kids get up there.  They thought it was awesome that they got to do that…we did, too!


At the ArtsPark



Our next stop was a park by the Indianapolis Art Center.  In a beautifully landscaped and wooded area, this park, called the ArtsPark, was filled with different sculptures and statues.  While not all of the pieces were something I could really appreciate as far as art is concerned, there were a few that were neat.  I had read online about one in particular that I wanted to take the kids to see.  It is called "Twisted House."


Twisted House


This neat house curves all the way over so that the roof touches the ground.  It looks like something you might see in a child's fairy tale, like Alice in Wonderland.  We had fun taking pictures there.






At the back of the park was a deck overlooking a river.  It was very peaceful and serene.  We sat and enjoyed the quiet for a few minutes.  It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of running around.  You can read more about the ArtSpark HERE.


After the park, we headed to the RV for the evening.  It was too late to get started to Louisville, so we will just get started in the morning.  Looking forward to what Louisville has to see!

More pictures in the Photo Gallery.

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Kokomo & Indianapolis, Indiana - 07/04/2011

Published at 8:51 PM in , ,

We had a lot of fun things planned for today - Independence Day! Happy July 4th everyone!



Gina, Jayden & Jim


Our first activity of the day was to meet up with our dear friend Gina Short.  You may remember an earlier post from this spring, where Gina and her husband Darrin came over for dinner and took a look at our wheel for us.  Darrin and Gina are both from Indiana, so when we headed this way, we called to see if by chance they were up here for the holiday weekend.  It just so happened that Gina was in Kokomo, north of Indianapolis, visiting her daughter and grandson for the weekend.  So since we'd never met the little guy, we arranged to meet them at a McDonald's for breakfast.  We had a great visit with her and Jayden, and we even let him take the RV for a spin! (See the picture in the Photo Gallery!)



Sam and his 'birthday breakfast'



When we got back to the RV, it was time to give Sam his 'birthday breakfast'.  Since we adopted Sam from a shelter, we don't know when his real birthday is, so the kids decided to celebrate it on July 4th because of 'Uncle Sam' being a big part of that day.  So we give Sam breakfast in bed, treats, and presents.  This 'breakfast' was a nice fruit salad that Rachael had made him.








Once we finished that up, it was time for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!  Jim and I both were really looking forward to it.  The kids were excited to ride on the track because they'd had so much fun when we did a lap on the Charlotte Motor Speedway last October.  I have been here before, but I was only seven, so I can remember only bits and pieces of our visit.




Some of the oldest Indy cars



There were a lot, more than I would have expected, of old Indy cars there, dating from the early 1900s during the early days of the racetrack.  There was an actual car you could get in and take your picture, a short film on the history of the racetrack, and more current cars as well.





Lap on the track!


The lap was very exciting! It was different than Charlotte, though.  The turns at Indy aren't as steep as Charlotte, so high speeds aren't necessary.  The tour guide did point out that the NASCARs that race here in the Brickyard 400 run the same speeds as they do in Charlotte, and the Indy cars run even faster because the cars are about half the weight as stock cars.  Personally, I don't need to fly around the track to enjoy it - it was awesome!



Start/Finish Line at part of the original brickyard









Birthday snack time!




Once we finished our tour of the track and museum, we went back to the RV to give Sam his 'birthday snack'.  Obviously the kids love to spoil him.  This treat was a mixture of Sam's favorite things: cheese, peanut butter, cool whip, and dog treats.  I don't think he could really figure out why he was getting all that stuff, but he definitely didn't complain!




Ice cream and fireworks!




The last activity of the day was to go watch fireworks!  The city of Noblesville, Indiana, puts on a big festival every year - free of charge - and a fantastic fireworks show.  We didn't make it in time to the festival, but we were there for the fireworks.  This was probably one of the best shows we've ever seen.  This wasn't a small-town skimpy fireworks kind of thing!  There were so many fireworks we kept thinking it must have been the 'grand finale'.  When they did finally do the finale, it went on for four solid minutes.  I video taped it, and hope to post it soon.








We had a FABULOUS 4th of July!  We were sorry to hear about everyone back home who didn't get fireworks because of the rain.


Lots more pics in the Photo Gallery!

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Jackson, Michigan into Indiana - 07/03/2011

Published at 11:05 PM in ,

After a hefty morning of cleaning, we loaded up and headed for Indiana.  I think knowing that we are headed back towards home makes it more fun to get ready to go to the next place.  The kids even helped.  The girls helped me wash, dry, and put away dishes, and I taught Michael how to vacuum and clean the floor really well.  They did a great job! Jim and I were really impressed.



Crossroads of America



Not much exciting to report for today.  We cleaned, we drove, we got fuel, we drove some more.  We headed into Indiana to a town near Indianapolis for the night.




Welcome to Indiana, Crossroads of America



We have some fun things planned for tomorrow in Indianapolis, so we're pretty excited about that!  Check back to see what we did!

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Jackson, Michigan - 07/02/2011

Published at 11:54 PM in ,

Today was just a fun day.  We didn't plan any sights to see today, just fun family time.  Sometimes you just need to relax!



Rachael & Chrissy



After mini-golf last night, we decided to head to the beach for a while.  It was a hot, sunny day in Michigan - I was beginning to think Michigan didn't know what heat was.  Four days ago I was buying jeans and sweatshirts!  BUT - I am NOT complaining about the heat.

So we took the kids down to the beach area on the lake at the campground.  They had a great time swimming and getting cooled off.  Then we headed to the carousel.  As many free rides as you wanted!  Chrissy rode it at least twelve times! And why not?  This was a great opportunity for her to get her fill of it.  Rachael rode probably half of the time, and Jim and I took a few turns.  Michael was much too 'busy' to ride.  It was relaxing to just sit and feel the breeze....




Riding with Daddy!


After our outside activities, we went back to the RV to rest, watch a movie, and get ready for the fireworks.  This was no ordinary campground fireworks show.  It rivaled that of any town.  And our camping neighbor gave the kids sparklers to play with.  It was the perfect summer night, especially since we DID remember bug spray!

Tomorrow we are heading out for Indiana!

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Mackinaw City & Lansing, Michigan - 07/01/2011

Published at 11:45 PM in ,

Today we decided that if we wanted to see Michigan's state capitol, we'd better hurry.  Since Monday is a holiday (July 4th), the capital wouldn't be open again until Tuesday.  If we waited until Tuesday, that would easily add another week to our trip, and we simply can't do that.  We have to be back for doctor appointments by July 14th.  So, as much as we hated to, we breezed kind of quickly through Mackinaw City, had to skip Traverse City and all the dunes, and head straight for Lansing.



Entrance to the Mackinac Bridge




Crossing the bridge





Before stopping in Mackinaw City, we had to cross the Mackinac Bridge.  What a bridge!!  It is only twenty-six feet from being five miles long!  It goes on forever!  We didn't get to see it at night, but from pictures we've seen, it looks amazing.  It was also the biggest toll we've paid in one place - $12.50! Yikes!



Looking out at Lake Huron



The kids really enjoyed looking out at another of the Great Lakes.  They are always amazed at how these can possibly be 'lakes.'  They were able to easily make out the outline of Mackinac Island.




At Colonial Michilimackinac


Before we headed to Lansing, we did stop at the Colonial Fort Michilimacinac, and the park that lies on the banks of Lake Huron.  This was a neat colonial-age fort that was important to shipping and trade in the Great Lakes area.  The park was really pretty, and although the day was overcast, we still were able to get nice pictures.  The kids did stick their toes in the water, but right at the park it was muddy and sandy, with too many geese, to really enjoy it.




On the banks of Lake Huron




From Mackinaw City to Lansing is about a three hour drive, and a pretty easy one, too.  As a special bonus, we actually found parking on the street in Lansing, just one block from the capitol.  Yes, that's right, we park the RV, with the truck towed behind, on downtown city streets.  It was definitely in our favor that it was the afternoon that was beginning a long holiday weekend.  But still! To find three spaces, with enough room to get in and out, is quite a feat!



RV on the street, one block from the capitol



The rotunda's glass floor



The Michigan state capitol had beautiful detailing in it's design.  Interestingly, about twenty years ago, when the capital was renovated, none of the same methods were used - as in no gold or tapestries on the walls.  Everything was painted to look like the original.  There is a stained glass dome, but probably the most interesting feature is the glass floor of the rotunda.  There are 976 blocks of translucent glass, and these blocks allow light to pass through in both directions.  From the upper floors, it appears to mimic a bowl, and from below, you can make out the feet of people standing above you.



Michigan's only president - Gerald Ford



After checking out the governor's ceremonial conference room, the painting of Gerald Ford and past governors, we got on the road again.  We planned on staying in an RV resort for two nights.  The one we picked had mini-golf, a pool, a beach area, and fireworks planned for Saturday night.  This was all located in Jackson, a short drive south of Lansing.



Mini-golf with Daddy


After we arrived, got the RV parked and hooked up, we went out for a quick game of mini-golf.  It always makes me laugh when the kids play mini-golf.  They are always so gung-ho about it - really put up a fuss to go.  But when it is time to play, about four holes is all they really 'play.'  The rest of the time they see how they can get the ball in the hole using any method except their golf clubs.  Michael likes to kick his, Rachael tosses hers, and Chrissy tries a variety of methods, not limited to Jim surrounding the hole with his feet so she can get it in easily.  This time was no different.  It was so much fun - I love just watching them and taking pictures.


It was a long but fun day, and we made a lot of progress in our movement south.  We will be here in Jackson one more day, and then we will move on into Indiana! Yay!  A little bit closer to home!



Photo Gallery pictures are HERE.