Monday, July 28, 2014

Mount Airy and Atlanta....Finally

If you followed our trip on this blog you may think that we didn't make it past Ohio.  If you followed us on Facebook you know we made it all the way to North Carolina, Georgia and back home.  The truth is, I was tired!  Driving for hours on end is exhausting.  It's been a long time since I did that much driving...wait, I have never driven that much.  More on that later.

We made it into North Carolina and Bob showed us around his home town, Mount Airy.  It is where Bob and Andy Griffith grew up.  Not at the same times of course.  I have often joked that I married a big Opie.  It's a cute town and I was happy to see it through Bob's eyes.  He drove us around to all his old haunts and told us what he did here and there.  The neighborhood he grew up in hasn't changed much....except a tree his family planed out in front of their house when he was four.  I don't know how big it was before but this is it now.
I had a funny interation with the woman who owns the house now.  I didn't want them to think I was some weirdo just taking pictures of their house.  I said, "My husband grew up in this house.  His family planted that tree when he was four."  She barely looked up and just said, "Oh."  Strange.  Wouldn't you say, "Wow" or "Would you like to look around?" or "When was that?"  Nope, just, "Oh."  Hmmm....  

We met up with one of his friends from PK - 11th grade, Kristen and her two sons.  It was fun and they are a very nice family.  

The next day we wandered around Mount Airy and checked out the town.  They are famous for three things (four if you include Bob); 
  1. Mayberry / Andy Griffith
  2. Chang and Eng Bunker - Siamese Twins
  3. Donna Fargo, the happiest girl in the whole USA.

They have really done a good job of using and maximizing these attractions.  We went to the Visitor's Center and I got the full run down on what to do in Mount Airy from one of their volunteers.  It was very thorough and honestly, hilarious.  My favorite part was when she told me that we could (Read this in a slow-southern-drawl), "Visit the quarry.  It doesn't cost anything but your time to get there and it's only a mile and a half.  It's the largest granite quarry in the world and it is so big, and so white they can see it from space!" I didn't say it but no, no you can't.  You can barely see it on Google Earth when you only look at North Carolina.  Funny.  It is big and impressive though. 

We left Mount Airy and drove for five plus hours to get to Georgia.   The kids were excited to get to Atlanta to see their cousins and sit still for a few days.  The plan was to be there for 5 nights.  We drove into Lawrenceville first which is where Bob's parents live.  We had a nice visit and a home-made dinner.  Man, we needed that.  We had been eating out every night and I was sick of mass-preparred food.  After our visit we went to Bob's sister's house.  Ingrid and Brian are great hosts and we were looking forward to seeing them and their kids and again....sitting still.  

One of the problems of sitting still is that you relax.  When you relax you can get sick.  When you get sick, you're no good.  I was no good.  I got a cold probably spurred on by allergies.  Allergies in different states in different hotels.... yuck.  Bob got it too.  I was down for a couple days and didn't fully recover until we got home!

Our time in Atlanta was packed with friends and family.  It made me realize that we need to go to Atlanta for a couple of weeks to get it all in.  There are MANY people I didn't get to see.  We did get to see our friends the Combs' and the Malm-Cluett's.  Barbara put together a beautiful brunch for us.  I was so honored.  It was fun to catch up and hear about all the goings on of friends from the past.  

We spent one afternoon with my Aunt Holly, Uncle Rick and cousin Bobbie Hurt and her family.  The kids got to go swimming and and we caught up around the pool until the thunder started.  That stopped that part of the day.  Bobbie and Holly made a great dinner and again, we were so honored to be in their company.  

While in Cumming (an Atlanta suburb) the kids got to go swimming in a swimming hole that had rock water slides.  That was a big hit.  They even got to jump out of a tree into the river.  It was a beautiful setting and such fun.  

 Guns...not such a thing in Portland but a big thing in the South.  Uncle Brown (Brian) had a BB gun and the kids were quite excited to try it.  They set up some targets in the back yard and went to town. Coulter and Kees even got to blow up a couple of full soda cans.  That was good stuff.  

Sophia spent a day shopping and going out to dinner and a movie with her big cousin Jessica.  We were also there for her 18th birthday when we went out to dinner.  We also visited with Bob's brother Bas and son Austin and caught Bob's sister Connie and her family as they passed through town on a vacation.  There were lots of touches but not a lot of long visits.  Our time was just so short.  

We had nice meals and company.  All in all we had a great time in Atlanta.  We got do do laundry (ohh, ahh), sleep in the same place for a few nights and plan for the rest of the trip...somewhat.  We knew that we were going to head to New Orleans.  While in the neighborhood you may as well.  Originally we were going to go to Memphis but the kids decided they wanted to go to New Orleans instead.  So that was the plan, to leave bright and early on Wed and head to New Orleans.  More in the next post.   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bad Sleep in Ohio

Last night was a terrible night for sleep. I had the weirdest dreams; unsettling, confusing, nothing worked, I couldn't find anything, I didn't know where my family was, people were constantly in my way...just general chaos. 

My dream... I was at Crystal Mountain and dropped off Bob, Sophia and her friend Ella B. I drove down the mountain to our really fabulous mountain place. When I got there I couldn't find a place to park. I was driving Bob's Mercedes. 

Next thing I know I'm walking around and looking for our place.  I get there and can't remember paying for it or signing papers. I look around  and think, "We should rent this out." As I'm contemplating this Bob Calls, "Where are you?" Mind you Bob and Sophia don't ski. The next thing I know I'm driving back down with just Sophia. 

I get back and can't find the mountain house. There is also a large crowded market right outside where it should be. Bob calls and I miss the call. When I try to call him back I have a universal Comcast Remote in my hand. It does everything but only a computer scientist could understand it. I try to call him but it's too hard. Of course while I'm trying he calls again and I can't answer. 

I finally decide to just go up there. I ask Sophia where Ella is. She says, "I don't know!" Like I am some big jerk. Now I'm panicked. I go to look for the car and can't find it. I start running around the crowd looking for the car. I press the lock button and hear it. When I get to the car it's a 6 seat golf cart. I figure I've got the keys for it, I'm taking it. Sophia is with me and we are freezing. We are headed toward the mountain and I can't steer very well, we're freezing and I can't call or figure out how to answer my remote. The car starts swerving off the road. And then I woke up....

Last night Sophia lost her iPod and I am pretty sure that got me thinking about the cell phone. Then I tossed and turned and didn't sleep well. Plus, being on this road trip has us all "off" a bit. I'm staying awake now, it's more restful than that "sleep" I just got. I'm exhausted. Hopefully better tonight. 


Milwaukee bound….  Let’s see…. It must be July 5th if we’re in Milwaukee.  First things first, we went to the MilwaukeePublic Museum.  We had reciprocal benefits and it is where I went as a kid.  Ah, nostalgia.   There is a life size Native American exhibit where they are hunting bison.   When I was a kid you’d hit a button and the noise to go along with it would come on.  I literally remember being in my stroller and being terrified of that.  I was scared and thrilled at the same time.  They don’t do the noise anymore…it’s too bad.  It really added something. 

There is Old Milwaukee Town where they show rooms from all the different cultures that moved to the area.  We found all of them including the Dutch and Scottish rooms.   There are dinosaurs, bugs from everywhere, animals, artifacts and then exhibits from many different cultures from all over the world.   We topped it off with an IMAX movie.  We got to sit down.  Nice.

After the MPM we went to our lodgings.  We were blessed to have a house to stay in.  Sophia’s buddy Katia’s grandparents’ (Do you follow that trail?) house.  They summer in northern Wisconsin and said we could stay at their city house.  It was perfect.  We settled in and then had a quiet night.  We’d been driving for days and needed some down time.  Bob and I let the kids go to town on devices and he and I watched Netflix to our hearts content.  We had snacks, wine, no kids in earshot.  Ahhh….

We all slept in but our gluttony made everyone tired the next day.  We survived. 

The big outing the next day was the Milwaukee ArtMuseum.  It is amazing!  The art is always top notch and the building is world class.  Really, mind boggling.  It looks like a ship on land, a BIG SHIP!  It has sails that go up and down.  You need to check it out.  And if you are ever in Milwaukee you must go and see if for yourself.  Again, this museum brings back memories for me.  I always loved it as a kid and it’s fun to see lots of the same pieces still there.  We were lucky enough to see a great Kandinsky exhibit while we were there too.  Bingo!   The kids’ areas are excellent and vary from hands on to learning about optical illusions. 

 After that we went to the Geodesic Domes though now they call them the Mitchell Park Domes….that’s just weird.  We got there with very little time to spare but we squeezed them in.    The bugs outside almost killed my kids……

After that is was dinner at Kopp’s.  The burgers are as big as your head…really.  So well fed, tired, run hard….we all crashed.

We woke up at about 9 on the 7th so pack up for Chicago.  While a nice two night stay was a luxury, it was time to move on.  We cleaned up, loaded up and off we went.  My next post….Chicago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 4th in La Crosse

Sioux Falls was just a quick stop.  We slept, ate, swam and left.  Within a few miles we were in Minnesota.  As we drove across the state I noticed something.  It’s pretty, lots of farms and hills but not a lot of roadside attractions.  South Dakota doesn’t have a lot of things to see beyond the Badlands but they make it up.  It was pretty impressive.  And (this is looking ahead) the minute we crossed into Wisconsin there were windmills everywhere.  No windmills in Minnesota.  Hm… 

Our trip across Minnesota was pretty much business.  Drive, stop at rest stops and make it to the next goal, Milwaukee.  By the time we were approaching La Crosse, Bob and I asked the kids if they wanted to press on or if they wanted to stop.  It was the 4th of July and the kids wanted to stop and play.  We made it to La Cross by 2:30 and just let the kids play in the pool.  They needed it. 

After pool time we went downtown to get dinner.  We went to Buzzard Billy’s, a Cajun place.  Everyone got what they wanted and then we went to Riverfest three blocks away.  People were scouting out spots for the fireworks so when in La Crosse…..  be from La Crosse.  We found a spot and then Bob went to the car to get provisions; chairs, blankets, jackets. 

It was fun to watch the crowd go by and see all the smiling faces.  People were really happy and just having fun together.  Bob came back and we set up camp.  The kids ran and played.  They did some bungee thing, bought a few treats and giggled together.  That’s the good stuff of just spending time as a family. 

At 10pm the fireworks started. I negotiated with a couple who had a great view to let us sit with them when the show started.  La Crosse does a good job with the fireworks.  One of the things I appreciate about the Midwest is that people show their appreciation when they like a firework.  At the beginning of the show people were oohing and aahhing and then breaking into applause.  I loved it.  The fireworks lasted about 20 minutes.  Kees, who hasn’t been to a fireworks show in years kept asking, “Is this the finally?”  I kept telling him, “You’ll know when it is.”  Poor kid, he hasn’t seen big fireworks in years because we are always at a family event or block party.  This year he indeed knew when it was the finally.  The fireworks went off for about two straight minutes and there were hundreds of them.  And the second they were done….the crowd erupted in loud and unanimous cheering.  Awesome!

We went back to the hotel fed, happy and ready to proceed the next day.  It was a good day.

A Good Time in South Dakota

We got up in Rapid City and the kids just couldn’t leave the pool with the cool three-story water slide.  Bob was anxious to get on the road but my mom’s intuition told me to let the kids play.  I told Bob, the minute the kids are miserable, we will be too.  They had been so great to this point we better let them play.  And play they did. 

Finally at 10:30 am we told them we had to hit the road.  We had things to do, places to go, things to see….  The plan for the day was Wall Drug (you can’t have a trip across the mid-west with out seeing Wall Drug), the Badlands, a missile silo and …..well you will just have to wait for the last one.  We didn’t even know we were going there yet. 

Wall Drug is only about 30-40 minutes outside of Rapid City.  We counted 60 Wall Drug signs and billboards in that short distance.  They REALLY want you to stop there.  It’s a funny place with about 4 square blocks of kitsch.   The kids wanted to see every corner and Bob and I tried to steer them on a swift path.  There are jackalopes, dinosaurs that move and make noise, every kind of “gift” from their gift shops and so much more.  We spent about an hour and half there and picked up lunch.  Coulter needed pizza and was about to freak out if he didn’t get some. 

Then off to the Badlands, it was only ten miles away.  The Badlands are amazing with each colored layer telling it’s own story.  The layers tell of an arid landscape four million years ago but a humid jungle like area 200 million years ago.  The colors and topography are like nowhere else.  The greyish layer doesn’t grow anything but the red one is flush with plants.  There are fossils from 250 million years ago and 250 years ago.  It is rough, beautiful and fully different than other landscapes we had seen as yet. 

After we passed through the Badlands we went to a missile silo.  It’s a strange little place with a portable outbuilding that is the above ground portion of that silo.  A silo that at one point could have been the beginning of the end.  It’s a humbling thought.  There was a film about the silo and how it ran from day to day.  There were people there running drills and practicing for years for a 20 second job, a terrifying job.  I think we can all agree, thank God it never came to pass.  We wanted to go on a tour but it was full.  It happens….and onto the next thing.

We hopped back in the car and headed for Sioux Falls.   We only had about 300 more milers to go.  About 200 miles in I started seeing signs for an 1880’s town.  WHAT?  What’s that?  After miles of these signs, at the last moment I got off the interstate.  We pulled up to a gift shop, walked in and it didn’t look like much.  When I asked about the “town” they guy said, “Well, it’s a whole town.  You have to see it.”  For whatever reason, I thought he was right.  I paid $35.00 and we went in.  The first part was an homage to “Dances with Wolves,” Big deal….  Then we stepped out the back.  No kidding, it was a full town with about 30 buildings.  They had been moved there from various parts of the state and turned into a town.  We walked through about 8 of the buildings and then Bob, the boys and I went into the saloon.  Sophia went to keep the horses company. 

The Saloon was a fully functioning building and it looked just like a saloon you’d see in any western movie.  It had a stage, a bar, barkeep, a few cowboys about, a mistress and a second level with a great baluster that would be perfect to throw someone through in a bar fight.  It was picture perfect.  In the back of the saloon was a costume shoppe.  It was $5.00 to dress up and go about town in period costume.  The boys wanted to do it but I thought we’d only be there for a short while.  After a few minutes I thought, “This is so perfect I have to let them.  They will only want to dress up for a little while longer. “   I said, “Boys, let’s do it.”  They were thrilled.

The boys got the usual; pants, shirts, boots, bandanas, hats and of course a holster with a gun.  It took them all of about 3 minutes to start shooting up everything.  They robbed every establishment in town; the bank, the train depot, the train, the mayor’s office, the salon, the photo shop, the blacksmith but they saved the best for last….the saloon. 

They put their heads together and came up with a plan.  I went inside so I could document their misdeed.  I told one the cowboys about it and he went out to talk to the boys.  After their chat he held open the heavy door so they could bust through the swinging doors.  Coulter, aka Wyatt, went for the table with the barkeep and the deputy.  Kees, aka Hubertus, went behind the bar.  Coulter had the barkeep get up and go get the booty.  Kees was ushered out of there and then the barkeep grabbed the bag of gold and handed it to Coulter.  Coulter turned and ran out firing his gun on the way out.  The barkeep yelled, “Go on, get outta here.  And don’t you come back!”  It was classic! 

It was hard to leave because the boys could have robbed everyone a second time and had a great time doing it but it was time to press on. 

We finally got back on the road and got to our hotel at almost 10pm.  It was late but totally worth it.  I wouldn’t have missed that experience for the world.  I am almost a week behind on my blog and still, it is my favorite part and it was totally accidental.

Next up….La Crosse!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mt Rushmore and Rapid City

Oh my goodness, I am behind.  We have wasted all our time having fun and not blogging.  Hahahaha…

We departed Cody and parted ways with mom and Ed and our beloved dog, Iva.  She was a crying mess when we were around.  It was better to make a clean break so we said goodbye to mom and Ed and didn’t get to say good-bye to Iva. 

Our destination, Rapid City, SD.  We took the “scenic route.” This included lots of two lane roads, dirt roads and construction.  We passed through the Black Hills and due to our pace, took in quite a bit of the sights and dust.  Again, lots of beauty and wholly different than other scenery so far.  We headed up into the mountains and over a pass that was at 9500 feet.  It was cold and there was snow on the ground.  This picture was taken fairly close to the top. 

And this one is of some really large granite blocks.  Hard to see but they were huge and very impressive. 
The only thing we scheduled to see this day was Mount Rushmore.  We passed a few really interesting things but we were gunning for the end goal; hotel and pool.  The only thing that I am sorry we didn’t get to stop for was the Jewel Cave National Monument.  We were right there and just drove by…it was almost painful.  If the roads would have been better perhaps we could have worked it in but the trade off was all part of the trip. 

We got to Mount Rushmore around four.  It has changed a lot since I was there last.  There is a huge parking structure (that costs $11.00 to park in and you don’t have a choice). There are also about four new structures with an amphitheater in back.  The museum is quite good but the movie, made in 1988, made us all giggle.  It’s amazing what technology has done over the past 30ish years.  It looked really old.  The kids learned all about how the mountain was carved and at the end Kees got another pin.   We left about six.

Another half an hour and we arrived in Rapid City.  It’s quite a cute town.  The kids were dying to eat out so we settled on TGIFridays.  Not a good choice and sad since we had been going on the cheep and having sandwiches and the like.  Such a waste of our “big night out.”  On to more important things….the hotel.

The kids were very excited when we got to the hotel; it had a three-story water slide!  They went as fast as they could to get their suits on and then back to the pool where they slid for an hour and wore themselves out. 

First thing in the morning they were back at it.  We had spent quite a bit of time on the road and they needed to get some energy out Bob was anxious to get on the road and I told him that this is where we needed to let the kids take the lead.  If they are not happy the trip gets to be miserable.  He acquiesced.  We let the kids swim until 10:30 and then we hit the road. 

Thursday, July 3rd – next up? Sioux Falls SD.