28 Jun

Day 29

Today was the mother of all driving days.

We cleared out of our rustic cabin, though not before learning that many of the local bats sleep behind the shutters. We peeped around and found one fuzzy little guy on our cabin and another cabin that was bat central. Not creepy, cozy!

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We bid adieu to Mammoth Cave National Park and hit the road in the general direction of Virginia.

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We got hungry for lunch near Kenova, West Virginia (right where WV, KY and OH converge). The Foursquare app suggested we try Stuart’s Original Hot Dogs but I spied an old fashioned soda fountain on the way. No problem, we’ll try both.

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Stuart’s comes out to your car to serve you, like a real “drive in,” so they keep a map of all the states represented by the license plates of their customers. It made our day to find out that we are the first from Hawaii in 2012! (We are easily amused.)

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Griffith and Feil Drugstore and Soda Fountain was a fun find. The most amazing part is that it is not only a historic soda fountain, but still a drug store too. And not an old fashioned apothecary, or museum of drug store stuff, but a modern, working pharmacy filling prescriptions for the locals. Half the customers came in for milkshakes and the other half for their medications.

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I ordered a chocolate malt and hubby got a milkshake. The boy ordered an ice cream soda with carbonated strawberry drink and chocolate ice cream. He said it tasted like a chocolate covered strawberry! The girl’s soda was toasted marshmallow flavor with chocolate ice cream to make a drinkable S’more.

Thusly fortified, we decided to keep going and suspected we might make it to our goal by night. We didn’t have anything on the to-do list for West Virginia (though maybe I should have looked into something mining and Hunger Games related?). We did swing into a bit of Ohio just to add another state to our list — plus the gas was noticeably cheaper. It was an easy drive to Lexington, VA where we stopped for dinner, and then an hour later, 555 miles from Mammoth Cave, we reached our final destination: Charlottesburg, Virginia.

The epic road trip is over and tomorrow we get back to real life, picking up hubby’s car, getting water and power turned on at our new house, etc. It’s been a grand adventure and one I hope the kids remember for a long time.

27 Jun

Day 28

Morning started with meeting Karen at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, a quirky fun restaurant with colorful artwork and delicious food.

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Of course, the company was wonderful too. I always feel a little weird meeting blog friends in real life, but in every case, they have been as interesting, friendly, and engaging as I would expect from their online presence. Karen is no exception. :-) Thank you so much Karen for coming to meet us and sharing in our epic road trip.

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After breakfast, we made a quick stop at the Apple store in Louisville for some lightning fast wifi and a quick laptop repair. Then we hit the road to Mammoth Cave National Park.

We took the Violet City Lantern tour, which was very cool.

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Not a lot of stalactites and stalagmites on this tour, but it followed a pretty historic route by old saltpeter mining, a failed TB colony, traces of 1800s tourism, and remnants from prehistoric native Americans. All of this was by lantern light, which seemed perfectly in keeping with the stories and the dawn of the National Parks.

Later in the evening we sat in the outdoor amphitheater by a campfire and listened to the story of Floyd Collins who inadvertently put the area on the map when he was trapped in the cave he had hoped to open to tourism. The program was entertaining and informative.

Finally, the kids got to see fireflies for the first time as we walked back to our cabin, and we’re pretty sure we saw bats too, out looking for tasty bugs at dusk.

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(This is it earlier in the day.)

Our trip is nearing the end, and while I look forward to staying in one place for a while, and having consistent laundry facilities, we’ve been having a great time together, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, exploring new places, and making surprising discoveries. I’m a little sad that the epic adventure will soon end.

26 Jun

Day 27 (for real this time)

Oops, the last post should have been Day 26. Today is number 27.

When we were mapping our trip and looking for a decent line between St Louis and Charlottesville, Louisville, KY kinda made sense. It’s the childhood home of my mother in law, but better yet, it advertised having the world’s largest man made underground cavern AND zip lines! How could we pass up something like that?

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The Mega Cavern is an old strip mine converted into storage, inert landfill, and entertainment venue. We decided we needed to try it just because we could.

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What fun! It was a totally different feeling than zipping al fresco in Kauai, but we still had a great time. It was very well organized and we felt completely safe the whole time.

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Another pair on the tour were also road-tripping — they worked for Progressive Insurance and were one of several teams crossing the country giving out SWAG and buying people gas to celebrate the company’s 75th Anniversary. We compared road trip notes, posed for the obligatory social media photo (cuz that’s the fun part), and got some free goodies.

After zip lining, we had originally thought we’d drive to Mammoth Caves, but we also wanted the opportunity to meet up with blog friend Karen, so we decided to spend another night in Louisville and go to the caves in the morning since it’s not far.

That gave us all afternoon to explore Downtown ‘Ville and we took full advantage. Lunch was at Taco Punk per Karen’s suggestion plus the awesome name.

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It was local, sustainable, and delicious!

From there we went to the Louisville Slugger Museum since that was the first convenient place to park. We took the factory tour which was pretty cool, and then lingered around the museum for a while.

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I liked the bats hanging from the ceiling (pun intended?).

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Then we walked down the street to 21c, again on Karen’s recommendation, and spent some time looking at the art. The galleries were interesting, but I thought the best, most appropriate “public” art were the permanent exhibits (including those in the bathrooms).

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This interactive piece by Utterback and Archituv was by the elevator and combined live video capture with the falling words of a poem, so viewers could “catch” the words with their bodies.

The bathrooms had videos of peeping eyes in the mirrors, but those eyes were blind. There was also one way mirrors outside, so those in the loo could look out at those in the hallway. It was a play on voyeurism that was not really very voyeuristic!

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The last place on our list to visit was the Muhammad Ali Center.

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By the time we walked there, they were winding down for the day, and to tell the truth, so were we. We chatted with two ladies representing the education mission of the center and then went back to our car.

We drove back to the hotel via the Highland neighborhood so we could see the house Hubby’s mom grew up in.

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It was beautiful! In fact, the whole Highland area looks like it would be a great place to live these days. As we drove through, we realized we’d be better off finding dinner there than near the hotel, so we stopped at the next restaurant. I think we had already passed the really good places, but Sol Azteca was perfectly acceptable (even if it was our second Mexican food for the day). I had a margarita, which ended my day on the perfect note.

As we explore different cities across the USA, I find that we all really enjoy places with public art. Whether it’s fountains and walking paths in Long Beach, fancy hotel lobbies and shopping malls in Las Vegas, something like City Museum in St Louis, outdoor sculpture like in STL’s City Park, or Main Street in Louisville, or free galleries like at 21c Hotel, kids and adults alike relax, enjoy, and interact. Sometimes I wonder why I do something so seemingly selfish like create art, but them I realize that it’s not just me that gets pleasure out of it. And in the case of art in public places, I think it really enhances the experience of a place.

Speaking of public art, International Yarn Bombing Day was recently, and I had the pleasure of helping to contribute to an awesome project that some knit night friends in Hawaii conceived and created at Spalding House. Check out the blog photos here. I think my favorite is the pink/orange watermark cuffs on the trees, though my help was in crocheting lacy granny squares to wrap branches.

25 Jun

Day 27

Not yet ready to leave St Louis, we started our day at Uncle Bill’s Pancake and Dinner for some delicious pecan pancakes.

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Then we went to the Discovery Center for some more hands-on kid fun.

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We were fascinated by the giant marble track, watched a demo on nano technology, built some bridges and arches, and played computer simulations. The kids particularly liked one where you could make a simulated fish and alter it’s characteristics to change it’s behavior.

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The architecture in St Louis was wonderful too, with lots of brick bungalows, townhouses, and industrial buildings. There was Tudor style, and carved stone, and a great variety of looks. I didn’t take any pictures of homes, but really enjoyed taking it all in as we drove around town.

We lunched at White Castle and then said goodbye to our wonderful friend and hostess, Sarah. I’m not sure I could ever imagine myself saying I lived in Missouri, but I think St Louis is a great place to visit.

Our next destination was Louisville, KY. We drove through two bonus states as well, leaving Missouri via Illinois, crossing part of Indiana, and finally into Kentucky at the end of the day. I think that brings us up to 10 states we’ve driven through. I don’t know if it is indicative of anything or not, but it seemed like the farmhouses along the highway in Indiana were much tidier and prosperous looking than those we passed in Kansas and Missouri. Just an observation.

Our next two days will be mainly underground. Stay tuned.

24 Jun

Day 25

Wow! What a day! I think we crammed in a LOT of St Louis today. I’ve also filled this post with lots of photos. I’m pretty sure it’s worth it though.

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We started at the Arch, of course.

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The pod elevator doors totally looked like aliens should come out, a la Star Trek or Dr. Who.

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They were even more groovy inside. Son called them the Claustrophobia Makers, but he stayed strong and didn’t freak out. Daughter was anxious beforehand but totally loved it all once she saw that we didn’t have glass windows to look out of as we rose.
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After being in the arch, we wandered around the museum of western expansion below the arch. As hubby was explaining how it was organized in concentric rings by time period, and outward by topic, I realized it mimicked expansion like ripples on water. OK, I was a little slow on the uptake, but I really like conceptual stuff like that. The kids really liked the ranger talks and all the pioneer toys and buffalo parts they got to play with.

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We lunched downtown at the Pita Pit which happened to be around the corner from City Garden, an amazing oasis of water and plants and sculpture that was completely accessible and enjoyable.
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I enjoyed the art, and the kids enjoyed the water features!
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We had originally thought we’d go to the Discovery Center because it was a hot day, but once the kids were wet, it made more sense to go to the City Museum since half of it is outside.
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This place defies definition, with lots of architectural and industrial salvage, some on display, but most of it transformed into a sculptural wonderland to climb in and on and explore. There’s a ferris wheel on the roof, which we did not go on, and at least 10 slides, which we did go on.
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This one had painted roller conveyor parts as sides so when anyone touched the sides as they slid, the painted patterns changed.

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Even the adults enjoyed the slides!

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This one was on the roof and guarded by a giant praying mantis. There was also a bus hanging off the edge of the roof, and an inverse, welded rod cage under the dome the mantis is on top of, from the bottom of which hung a rope swing. Being inside the hanging cage felt very Mad Max in the Thunderdome. There was a treehouse and suspended tunnels to and from airplanes. There was a corridor freak show of neon and mannequins and boardwalk oddities, there were tunnels into the basement and under the walkways. It was amazing and bizarre.

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I hope these photos click larger because the museum/playhouse was amazing. The kids found caverns with stalagmites and stalactites, and creature forms and grottoes, which led to what was essentially an elevator shaft for shoes when the building was a shoe factory. The space was filled with spiral staircases and auger shaped railings, and if you climbed to the top you could take a 10 story spiral slide down. One exited the slide surprisingly dizzy!

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Inside on the first floor and mezzanine water a fantasy forest and underwater world where you could climb into a tree and exit through a whale’s mouth, or something like that. The kids kept running up and telling us what super secret tunnels and slides they had discovered. Amazing!

Unfortunately, there were a few casualties. K slipped in some water and bruised her leg, X got a bit of friction burn on his elbow from a slide, and A banged his head on one of the aircraft. Obviously these injuries needed treatment, so we headed off to Ted Drewe’s for some classic Route 66 frozen custard.

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Yup, we feel much better now! (Note that X is holding his treat upside down — he chose a “concrete” which I think is just ice cream so cold that it doesn’t come out of the container when upturned.)

23 Jun

Day 24

It’s a relatively short drive from Jeff City to St Louis so we took the scenic road along the Missouri River. It became even more scenic when we hit construction that detoured us about an hour out of the way. The back country roads were fine, but the Forensic Center behind razor-wire topped fences in Fulton was unexpected.

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We stopped in the town of Hermann which was founded as a German community. The old school (which had a bilingual curriculum up until WWII) is now a nice little museum. The town wasn’t quite as full-on German as I had hoped, but it sounds like they pick up the pace for Oktoberfest, and for a Weihnachtsmarkt the first week of December. We did get delicious chocolate from Ricky’s Chocolate Box though.

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We arrived in St Louis early afternoon and hungry so our hostess with the mostess took us to Gus’s for super yummy pretzels. The boy declared the concept of a bratwurst baked inside a pretzel to be genius!

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We drove by the arch and took another scenic detour.

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Later in the evening we went to Schlafly’s for dinner and met two of hubby’s former soldiers who I swear haven’t aged a day since we last saw them in Germany about 9 years ago. It was great to see them doing well.

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Now we have to sleep off our food coma so we can do some more serious sightseeing tomorrow.

22 Jun

Day 23

We are staying with my husband’s cousins on Jefferson City, MO.

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That’s the State capitol. Embracing the local history, we channeled our inner Lewises and Clarks and spent a good part of the day navigating the Missouri River.

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The Northwest Passage was too far from our goal, but we passed a gorgeous 3.5 hours leisurely paddling “The Big Muddy,” the second largest river in the US.

As an aside, we humans are obviously and instinctively drawn to water. We started our trip poolside by the beach, visited two more beaches in California, and a lake. We went to man made canals in Las Vegas, followed by the Hoover Dam. The next day was on the Rio Grande. We went to a neighborhood pool in Colorado, and today was spent in canoes. We may not need an island, but we do seem to need water.

We don’t need ice cream either, but we’re certainly not going to refuse it. Our reward for 14 miles of paddling was huge ice cream scoops at Central Dairy.

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To top off the day we went to see Brave with our favorite redhead. It was everything we expected it to be. We go to bed happy.

22 Jun

Beyond Comfort in Michigan

We interrupt this travelogue to remind anyone in the Michigan area that three of my Army Wife Aprons are on show in the SAQA exhibit, Beyond Comfort.
It’s from now through September 16th at the Gerald R Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.

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Unfortunately, we won’t be traveling that far north, but I’d love a report if anyone else goes!