An Encounter of Ark-size Proportions

20180705_082233

It was a beautiful drive through Kentucky farmland on the way to the Ark.

We left Louiville bound for the Ark Encounter. This is a boat of Biblical dimensions, built to be the same size as the one God instructed Noah to build. 20180705_092536Answers in Genesis, the Creation ministry that took on this monumental task, did an outstanding job. We spent four hours walking through this ark, and there’s so much we missed. Not on purpose, but to see and read it all would take a couple of days. It’s just astounding what they’ve done to recreate Noah’s Ark.

20180705_093224

The landscaping was so beautiful and lush — everywhere!

20180705_101640

God led the animals into the ark, most of the in groups of two. It was a funny irony that the morning we’re visiting the ark, Albert and I ended up wearing the same color shirt without even meaning to!

                     Above is an outside and inside picture of the same part of the Ark.

          In the Bible, we can read the specific instructions God gave Noah in the building of the Ark. But not all details are there, especially when it comes to the inside and the logistics of how to keep the animals. So the AIG team did a lot of research to learn how things might’ve been, and used that research to create their best impression of how Noah and his family did things. Like keep the small creatures. Dayne is showing you small cages. 

There was storage built above that could hold so much (picture on left.) And have you ever wondered how insects and creepy crawlies were kept. AIG thinks these pots with covers on top would’ve made a very reasonable solution. 

The pots on the left were for animal food storage, and the round clay thing on the right would’ve made a great watering device. 

The photo on the top left shows the aviary. Bottom left is a garden, using the natural light the would come in from roof windows that could open to let in sunlight. The photo on the left shows a solution for lights. Clay pots that would hold oil for burning.

On the left, one of Noah’s daughters-in-law is feeding the animals.

20180705_094708

Noah and his family worshipped God faithfully through it all.

20180705_111319

There were only eight people in the ark. By choice. Noah and his family worked for 120 years to tell people about the coming flood, but no one listened. In the end, when God shut the Ark door, only Noah and his family had chosen to go in. As we walked around in this Ark, there were hundreds of people, and room for plenty more. This door here is a reminder for us all to walk through the door that Jesus offers us. All we have to do is accept Him and we can be saved, too. That’t it.

20180705_11310320180705_11294720180705_112847

If you head north on the interstate for about forty minutes, you come to the Creation Museum, the flagship for Answers in Genesis. We spent some more time there walking through the exhibits and soaking in all the amazing things to see. It was so refreshing to be in two places that see the world through the truth that we are all created by God. He was there from the beginning, and His love is enduring through all time. And even though sin has changed this world into a sad, hurtful place, His love and plan to be with us in Heaven one day has never changed. And how refreshing to be in a place that shares that rather than attack it.

20180705_151411

To get to the museum, you walk through beautiful gardens. Everything is just beautiful. And to think the Garden of Eden was even more beautiful.

20180705_15142520180705_151542

20180705_151925

Everything was so well done. Just amazing.

20180705_15524720180705_155305

20180705_165434

The Bible speaks of dragons and large beasts. We just don’t believe they lived millions of years ago.

20180705_153302

You’ve probably heard of Lucy, the creature found that many scientists say proves we evolved from apes. I don’t know anyone who resembles her.

20180705_153704

This mannequin shows the detail put into each item on display. The hairs in his beard were placed individually…and his face pained to be so life-like. Amazing. I know he’s a man, but he’s beautiful!

20180705_165144

This is a geode that was on display. It’s breathtaking and intricate!

20180705_170700

The boys were so excited to walk on this pontoon bridge. They wanted to jump and bounce!! Problem is, there was a trio of grandmas up ahead. We told the boys to walk carefully so they would’t bounce the grandmas off into the water. Just after we issue this warning, one of the grandmas took a big jump to see how high she could bounce! It was so fun!!

 

 

 

Advertisements

A First for the Fourth

 

20180703_173752

Louisville’s skyline the day before. It had been raining every day for the last several, but 4th of July was nothing but sunny. Thank you, God.

The morning of 4th of July, we were excited. There were some big things ahead. We’d planned on some special happenings, and were excited about them. God had some other special things coming that we had no idea about.20180704_083711
Our first stop was the Kentucky Derby Museum. We’re not horse racing fans or proponents, but Dayne loves horses, as mentioned in an earlier post. And he’s also read a good portion of the Black Stallion series. He’s got dreams of one day owning a horse, and even has several names chosen. In the book series, there are many horse races, and visiting the KDM and Churchill Downs was thrilling to him in that he could see a setting like this for himself.

 

 

 

 

We also did some horsin’ around…


We left Churchill Downs for the Waterfront Park. In looking up Louisville’s 4th of July activities, we saw they’d be planting 15,000 America flags in the ground to honor service men and women, law enforcement, and first responders. This seemed like a very worthwhile thing to help with, and they were soliciting volunteers.
We showed up to the spot that seemed like the spot, only to find it empty. We walked around a little more and came upon another family looking for the flag people. We spent some time chatting and problem solving.

Thankfully, there was an official looking golf cart going by, so I asked if they knew anything. While waiting for a reply over the walkie talkie, a local news reporter and her camerman drove up. They were also looking for the flag people. We got to chatting, and she asked us what brought us down to the park. After telling our story, she said, “Well, I’ve got to interview you!”
So, we did an interview about our trip and adventures right there at the park. The news station kindly featured our story among their others for the day. That was an amazing, uexpected blessing we never saw coming. If you’d like to watch the interview, click on this link:

https://www.whas11.com/video/news/family-takes-cross-country-road-trip-to-appreciate-america/417-8179595

If the link doesn’t work, you can Google this phrase: family takes cross country trip to appreciate America

We eventually heard back the noon start time for flags was a misprint, and it would begin at 3. With some time to kill, Sara, the news reporter, gave us some great ideas of where to go next while waiting for 3pm.

20180704_125229

This was a fantastic place to go on a HOT day like this. We already had two layers of sweat on, and there’d be more added as the day went on.

20180704_131119

They even welcomed Melbee into the AC and gave her some water. She was very grateful. So were we.

Sara also suggested going to Crescent Hill. We did and found some good old-fashioned 4th of July fun!

Then we headed back to Waterfront Park to help with flags.

IMG_88751

This was a beautiful scene with the Ohio River in the background.

IMG_88931

This is our flag family, the Mays. They were there with us at noon, and came back later, as well. We’re so glad to have had the chance to get to know them while doing the flags. (Their daughter is taking the photo.) John is running for KY State auditor, but you’d never know it. He never acted like anything other than a hard working guy who wasn’t afraid to sweat while doing something special for his country. Shellie was such a lovely person. We wish we lived in KY just to get to see them again.

We headed back to Big Boy for some festive 4th of July family traditions — sub sandwiches and American Flag cookie.

The day ended with beautiful flare!

20180704_233852

God bless America, our home sweet home.

 

Kentucky Country

20180702_085446Kentucky is one place we were excited to make it to. This is Daniel Boone country! Daniel Boone was a man, yes a real man. With an eye like an eagle and as strong as a mountain was he…the real Daniel Boone was so tough and rugged. To tromp through wild country like that…impressive. And Fess Parker’s character is a family favorite.
We arrived in Kentucky and headed for Fort Boonesborough State Park. We ate lunch with the original fort site in sight.

20180702_140526

Daniel Boone’s own hands helped build that wall…amazing…

Then we visited the living history fort, which is a working Fort Boonesborough. There wasn’t much going on since it’s only operational Wed-Sun, but it was still fun to see.


Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown was our last stop for the day. This was a wonderful, affordable RV park, with so many kid-friendly amenities. The boys wished we could live there for a month.


The next morning, we had a 10am appointment at Old Friends Farm to be part of a tour group. OFF is a “retirement home” for race horses and other horses used in that trade.20180703_113621 The horses are well-cared for and get to live out the remainder of their years the way a horse should — enjoying green grass and shade, getting regular care, and a good dose of carrots each day, thanks to all us visitors.

20180703_112753

This guy was saved from going to a Mexican slaughter house. He is such a sweetie. Since he’s 29 yrs old, his teeth aren’t strong enough, so he has to have shredded carrots. And they have to be fresh 🙂

20180703_113322

Kentucky is the horse capital of the world. You can see why — it’s so green and beautiful.

It was also a learning experience during the 90 minute walking tour. We now know the difference between a stallion and a gelding, a mare and a philly, a colt and a stallion. Very interesting. We’re all so glad to have been able to visit this special place.20180703_104302

20180703_110752

This is the Kentucky Derby Winner Silver Charm

20180703_111115

This is Dayne’s hand after loving on Silver Charm…never to be washed again!

20180703_111430

The horse being fed is Popcorn Deelites. He played Seabiscuit in the movie.

20180703_113049

The horses here at OFF are the premier athletes of their sport. War Emblem is here, as well. So this is the equivalent of feeding carrots to Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, Joe Montana, Pete Sampras…you get the idea.

 

20180703_113700

This is Lucy. She also lives on OFF, and as her 25 lbs show, she lives a life of luxury.

Our last fun thing for the day was Kart Kountry!!

20180703_140614

The boys were so excited to drive themselves! The track is 1.5 miles long.

Here’s Dayne’s take on that…”You have the orange car,” the Kart Kountry employee told me. I ran to the car and jumped in, quickly buckling up. Looking up, I waited for the OK to take off. The employee waved Ean off first, then a second later, she waved me off. I floored it immediately, remembering the deal us three boys had made — “Lets race, OK?,” Brodee had said. I had readily agreed. Anyway, I was gaining fast on Ean by the third turn and by the fourth turn I was right behind him. Now during all this, Brodee was not to be forgotten. He was very close by. I thought I saw an opening big enough for my Kart. As it turns out, it was not. Ean closed the opening and we scraped. Quickly steering away, I darted forward and passed Ean on the outside. I began to make a bigger and bigger gap between me and Ean. Brodee passed Ean and started gaining on me. I tried to keep ahead of him but was not able. He passed me as soon as I passed Ean. BUT I didn’t give in. I kept racing. But then dad passed me. After dad passed, he slowed down and let me and Brodee go by him. I sped up, taking advantage of he opportunity. I was right behind Brodee now. THANKS DAD!!!!! When we were about 1,000 feet from the finish, I realized I was not going to win by playin’ it safe. I saw an opening big enough for my vehicle to go through. I passed Brodee with about 250 ft. to spare.

Here’s Brodee’s narrative…Kart Kountry was absolutley awesome!!!! I had been looking foward to driving my own go-cart since I knew we were going there. When we first got there, my first thought had been to race with Dayne and Ean. So we agreed to race. But after the first few turns in our competition, I unoffficially dropped out of the race, and started to experiment with my “vehicle”. Right before every turn I would slow down to almost a complete stop. Then I would slam my foot down on the gas as far as I could. While I would speed around the corner, I wouldn’t turn the steering wheel until the last second. Then I would crank the wheel hard. After a couple experiments, I found that I could drift like those guys in the gangster movies. Having the second fastest type of car also helped. (They give you your kart according to your age. So mine was faster than Dayne and Ean’s, and Mom and Dad’s was faster than mine.) So even though Dayne ended up winning the race (Ean dropped out as well) with a “daring move” as Dayne called it, I think I found something cooler then winning a race. Drifting. I can’t wait until I have my own car. I hope I can get a 2018 Camaro zl1 1le. That’s my dream at least. And if you get a chance, please look up that type of car. Trust me, it’s worth it. 🙂 
We did a few more errands before heading off to Louisville. Being July 3, we had some Indpenendence Day prep to do!

20180629_101555

This was one BIG box of fireworks being sold at Costco. If you look closely, you can see the top of Ean’s head just above the box. It would’ve been fun to light them all, but Big Boy wasn’t big enough!

We did a few more errands before heading off to Louisville. Being July 3, we had some Indepenendence Day prep to do!

Our day ended with a walk across the Big Four Bridge. It spans the Ohio River from Kentucky to Indiana.

20180703_182146

That’s Indiana across the river.

20180704_074714

Speakers had been placed in the middle of the bridge. They were playing patriotic marching band music — very inspiring! It was impossible not to catch the spirit!

Meet Virginias

Our time spent in Virginia and West Virginia wasn’t planned to be a stop on the Walkabout. They were more of a means to an end since we needed to get to Kentucky. But the boys hadn’t been to VA, and none of us had been to WV, and adding two more states to our list was a bonus, too. We could call it a win-win.
20180701_145756

20180701_145903

VA welcomes lovers of goofiness, too!

We stopped at the Visitors’ Center just across the border into Virgina. It was such a nice, big, park-like setting.20180701_151318
Apparently, Virginia is for lovers. Who knew? But they don’t just mean the kissin’ kind. It also inlcudes nature lovers, antique lovers, music lovers, history lovers, you get the point.20180701_150632
Our short drive through VA was beautiful. We loved (wink-wink) it!
As for West Virginia, we spent a little more time there. 20180701_17051720180701_173054.jpg Of course, we had to enter the state properly, to the sounds of John Denver singing Take Me Home, Country Roads at the top of Big Boy’s lungs.

We enjoyed driving through serveral tunnels that go through the mountains. Such feats of engineering!

 

West Virginia was new for all of us. This was an exciting moment. It really didn’t look that much different than VA until we got up into the hills a little and the fog started rolling in. There was a quaint little town snuggled down in a long, narrow valley between the interstate and a mountainside. The mountain mist wafted over the top and it looked so charming.

Our goal was to make it at least to Charleston before shutting it down for the night. We did, and then some.

20180701_221412

I couldn’t help but sing to myself, “Feed the birds, toppins a bag…” when I saw the capitol building in the late night sky.

There was construction going on on I-64, and of course, it was the westbound side. They shut down the interstate for quite a few miles, so we had to detour through the hills. Albert and I were so tired. It was about midnight by now, but thankfully we made it to a Home Depot parking lot and were able to get some sleep.

Kentucky was awaiting us the next day.

Sweeeet Carolinas

After leaving BRP, we headed for South Carolina. We made a lunch stop in Lenoir, NC.20180628_143540We found the community center, and the boys were able to play indoor basketball for free. When they were done, the kind employees even gave them a lunch. It turned out there’s usually around twenty kids there each day. But for some reason, none of them had shown up, so there were lunches left over. The boys got to be the recipients of a few of them.20180628_164412

20180628_164242

We’ve found a lot of these swinging benches in the South and LOVE them!

Since we were dry camping again, we found a WalMart in Tega Cay. It happened to be right next to Mr. Putty’s. We hopped on Groupon and found a deal for five and proceeded to putt-putt. It was a really fun memory.

 

 

20180629_111717

Charlotte skyline

Brodee is a Panthers fan, and he was excited to see their stadium.

20180629_112549

Special effects courtesy of Albert’s hallucinating phone…

20180629_112346

These are no kitty cats!

20180629_112506

It’s so ferocious looking, even though a statue, Dayne was hesitant to touch its teeth 🙂

20180629_113242.jpg

While in the gift shop, it was almost as if Brodee was wearing camouflage. Where’s Brodee?

20180629_113554

Albert? Not so much 🙂

20180629_115630.jpg

We next set our wheels for Freedom Park. This is a fun place in Charlotte with many places to play. As we parked Big Boy, a police officer pulled up in front of us. Oh, no. Did we do something?
Albert got out to talk to him. They stood in front of the windshield talking. And talking. And talking. The boys and I sat there, trying not to be obvious, but also trying to lip read. And not very successfully. What was wrong?
The officer got back in his car and drove away. Albert got back in without a ticket. Whew! What was that about?
It turns out the officer and his wife have been wanting to buy an RV. He saw us pull in and came over to chat about that. You’ll never guess where they’d like to take their trip to….The Blue Ridge Parkway!! Well, hey, we’d just been there. He and Albert had a lot of fun discussing this topic. We hope he and his wife are able to enjoy that beautiful place soon!

The boys enjoyed Freedom Park and the Carolina Panthers sponsored skills course. There was even a 40yd dash run with a timing clock.

 

 


While driving to Trader Joe’s, (running low on Chocolate Cats again), we pulled up at a stop light. I looked to the right and saw a store we’d driven by earlier. It’s called The Map Shop.

20180629_134222

There was a map of Wine Country in the window. We used to live in that area.

20180629_134158

Isn’t it beeeeeeautiful?!

20180706_082010

I even got this t-shirt.

I LOVE maps. Always have. Looking at maps is a cheap way to travel. The boys’ shower curtain is a map (my sister inspired us with her kids’), we have books and books on maps. Wall maps. And this store is all about maps. It thrilled my soul! Albert, being the easy-going type, made a detour for the boys and I and dropped us off. It was so fun being in that place.
We made it to the RV park and got settled in. Look what was across the street…

20180629_180507

A view of Charlotte Speedway (NASCAR) right outside Big Boy’s door

On Sabbath, we visited the University City SDA Church.

20180630_092914

Harp music was part of the church service. What a treat! We got to hear her practice, too, so that was like a bonus!

We enjoyed our time there, and afterwards were invited to share lunch at the home of one of the families. They and another family hosted us, including Melbee. The food was delicious – haystacks again – you just can’t go wrong with that! It was so relaxing and nice to get to know them. They even shuttled us in two cars from the church to their home so we wouldn’t have to drive Big Boy.
Later in the afternoon, we took off for Durham. About a year ago, on a travel show, we saw there’s a bike/hiking trail that spans fifteen states from Maine to Georgia. Part of it goes through Durham. We thought it’d be fun to ride a short portion of it.

 


As evening came on, we went to a park to enjoy some more outside time. Albert took Mel for a walk while the boys and I took to the tennis courts. They were excited to hit. But God had other plans.
While warming up, several kids came running up. They’d been having a cookout and saw us. They wanted to know if they could play, too. (“What rack will I use?”, was a question we heard. So cute. They meant racket.) Now, our boys had been really excited to play, and saying yes to these kids would mean that dream of really playing would have to wait for another day. But that’s what we did. Getting to share tennis with kids who’ve only ever played once before, and not really, according to them, was a privilege.
When the boys were little, we would take them to the courts. They’ve been swinging rackets for years. While on the courts back in Windsor, when the boys were 2, 4, and 6, a really kind lady stopped as we were playing. She’d been down at the other end with some friends. She gave us a ball that was perfect for beginners. We couldn’t believe it. She just gave it to us. And then she said she was a tennis coach, and taught kids. Would we be interested? She wasn’t in it for money. She wanted kids to have a chance to see how fun tennis is. That was the beginning of a friendship that continues today.
I looked quickly through our bag as this new group of kids was coming onto the courts. No beginner balls left. We’ve given all ours away, in keeping with the Anna tradition. But we had an hour of fun with Gabby, Chase, Hunter, Audra, and even three year old Caleb. And hopefully they’ll want to try tennis again.

20180701_105721

Before leaving the Chapel Hill/Durham area, we had a few more stops to make. UNC and Duke.

 

20180701_120952

In honor of the great Coach K

20180701_121044

While walking to the stadium, the church bells were playing America, the Beautiful. It was beautiful.

20180701_121200

This is inside the Duke stadium. The boys are standing ON the floor. There was a basketball camp going on, so we were able to slip in unnoticed and get this experience!

20180701_140600

You see these beautiful yellow flowers along the freeway in NC. It’s so cheery. This was a rest stop just before leaving NC to go into Virginia. That’s Pilot Mountain in the background.

 

Blue Ridge Parfectway

Each of us has milestones on this trip. For Dayne, reaching The Alamo was one. For me, one was Key West. Ean was excited about the Navy Seal Museum. Albert is looking forward to satisfying his curiosity about Berrien Springs, MI. One of Brodee’s milestones? Blue Ridge Parkway.20180626_141406

We didn’t really know what to expect. Thankfully, Jeff and Amy are very familiar with The Parkway, as locals call it, and helped us get a line-up of things to see, and in the order we’d come across them. Their suggestions were invaluable!! When they retire, we vote they become tour guides for this region.20180626_163609The Parkway is 469 miles long. It begins in VA and ends in NC. It has official entrances at both the northern and southern ends, and you can also get on anywhere in between. The Parkway was built so it’s a route by itself, but civilization isn’t far away. There are entrances onto the BRP on the outskirts of many towns along the way.
Our first stop was Waterrock Knob. There is a beautiful Visitors’ Center up there with a few exhibits showing some of the wildlife you may encounter while on the BRP.20180626_171909

20180626_163646

This is a panoramic shot Albert took.

In the parking lot, you’re also high enough you feel like you’re even with the tops of the other mountains. We took the short hike that curves up around the top. As you walk, there’s a tiny stream that trickles along with you. Melbee loved being able to stop and drink when she got too hot.

20180626_165907

It looks like all the mountains are covered in broccoli crowns. Can you imagine what it looks like in autumn?!?! It has to be breathtaking!

The view from the top was spectacular. You look out on the other mountains and can watch the clouds at almost eye level.

20180626_164406

It was also a great place to test out new binoculars recently purchased at Smoky Mountain Knife Works…

After Waterrock Knob, we took off for Devil’s Courthouse. By the time we got there, the afternoon rain had beat us. We figured it wasn’t best to be walking out on top of a mountain with an electrical storm brewing.

20180626_181039

On the way to Devil’s Courthouse, we had to mark Big Boy’s accomplishment!

20180626_184047_Richtone(HDR)

A view of Devil’s Courthouse from the overlook.

Next on the Jeff and Amy list was Black Balsam Knob, but since the rain wasn’t going away anytime soon, we decided to park it for the night at the trail head and wait til morning. We weren’t the only ones spending the night up there. A few tent campers had sheltered under some of the evergreens. We slept like babies, with the sound of rain drops putting us to sleep. No city lights, no other sounds. Just the wind, the rain, and wonderful sleep.

20180627_064946

Black Balsam Knob trail head

In the morning, we woke up and took a sunrise hike to the top of the knob. It was still windy, but it felt so good. It’s just such a peaceful feeling to look out across the way. The birds sing to you along the way, and knowing you’re somewhere special like this, your feet just keep moving all by themselves.20180626_162549
Graveyard Fields was another spectacular place. As we walked along down to the river, some of the foliage made us think we were back in Florida. It looked tropical. But at the same time, we could smell the sweet aroma of mountain blackberries.20180627_08533420180627_08541520180627_085427
When we got down the path toward the river, there were wooden stairs and a bridge that led out across. Being trailblazers, the boys decided to rock hop instead and had a blast doing so!20180627_13253220180627_132655Next on the docket was Mount Mitchell. This is a State Park, but it’s right off The Parkway, so you don’t have to pay an entrance fee. We were planning to take a hike, but since it was midafternoon….you guessed it…rain! We still had some fun anyway.

We wound our way through the mountains to the NC Museum of Minerals at the BRP Visitors’ Center in Spruce Pine, NC.

 

20180627_153538
The last stop for the day was Linville Falls. The walk from the Visitors’ Center was beautiful. And even though evening rains continued, thet trees were so thick, we barely felt a thing. We spent the night in the parking lot and enjoyed more of the beautiful sounds of the mountains as we went to sleep.

 

20180627_175557

20180627_180944

Linn Cove Falls

20180627_181859

Albert spotted this little guy one the way back to Big Boy. Can you?

Our final destination on The Parkway was the Linn Cove Viaduct.

20180628_110356

As beautiful as this is, can you imagine it in autumn attire?

Back in fourth grade, Brodee had done a National Park project with one of his homeschool classmates. They chose Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the tasks was to create their own postcard. Brodee drew the Linn Cove Viaduct in autumn. And he asked me, “Mom, do you think we’ll ever actually get to go to Blue Ridge Parkway?” I told him I hoped so, and knowing we were doing it now…that was an incredible thing!

We took a hike first, and the hike takes your right under the viaduct. It was unreal. We were under the viaduct!! 20180628_094026

20180628_111128

This hike was the perfect blend of elements the boys love – uphill, downhill, climbing over rocks and logs, and plenty of interesting things to see — like these roots that look like an octopus!

Then it was time to drive it. Le piece de resistance!  This was the moment we’d been waiting for….driving the Linn Cove Viaduct!20180628_11465220180628_114703

20180628_121303

We exited The Parkway at Blowing Rock, NC. It truly was hard to turn off The Parkway, knowing we were leaving behind God’s Country. You couldn’t help but feel His presence up there. The simpleness of it all. The weather was beautiful…we didn’t use the air conditioner for the entire time on The Parkway. But it was time to move on. Maybe someday we’ll be back…

THEY’RE GR-R-REAT!

20180624_164540

Coming in from the Townsend, TN entrance.

We left The Wickhams’ and were headed to another of our special places to see.
Years ago, while on another hike back in CA, Amy had described a place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A place called Cades Cove. She said it was a quiet little place, nestled in a valley. There was a loop road that went around the valley, and while driving it, you could come across turkeys, deer, beautiful singing birds, and possibly, a bear. There would be cabins, built by settlers back in the first half of the 1800’s, and little country churches.
We found it all, including a bear. And it was just as quaint and priceless as Amy described.
Jeff suggested doing the loop in the evening or early morning. When we arrived at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it was just the beginning of evening. We decided to hit the loop before checking in at the Cades Cove Campground.
We took one of two cut-offs that cut across the valley to the other side of the one-way loop. While on the cut-off, we were flagged down by a ranger. She was turning cars around because the road was temporarily closed.
The reason? There were two bears farther down the road. It seems they’d been mating, and the little lady had grown tired of the romp. Instead of feigning a headache, she clambered up a tree, knowing the big-fella was too big to pursue. Well, he might’ve been too big to follow her up, but he wasn’t too big to stay at the bottom of the tree and make a ruckus. While the ranger was getting all the other cars out of the way so we could turn around, the she bear decided she was tired of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene and made a run for it. We never got to see them, but the ranger kept us filled in on the goings-on.20180624_174529
We went back to camp and got settled. Even got to enjoy a little R-n-R before the daily showers arrived. We decided to sit under the awning while it rained and play “I Spy”. That was a fun, peaceful moment.

20180624_182706

Hammock time!

20180624_182023

 

 

20180624_192024.jpg
Ean and Brodee had fun building a fire.

The next morning, we got up early to see the loop. And we saw some treasures.

20180625_072906

Great doesn’t seem grand enough for these mountains…they’re breathtaking…especially in the morning.

20180625_07234520180625_073748

20180625_073259

That’s the bear we saw. As we rounded a corner, there were a few other cars parked, watching something. It was this little one. This bear seemed like a tweenager, not full-grown. We watched it forage for a while. Then it headed off through the grass. Thank you, God, for this treat.

The church above was built in 1836. We got to go in. Amy said to be sure to sing inside one. The acoustics are so good in here, it even made our meager effort sound not so horrible.

20180625_080928

20180625_082644

Dogs aren’t allowed out of the vehicles, so Mel got to watch.

20180625_082526

After driving the whole loop, we had another appointment to keep. There were some horses waiting at the Davy Crockett Riding Stables. We’d be going on a one hour ride.20180625_105847

20180625_094519

The whole reason we ended up here was because Dayne saw a flier for this place at the TN Welcome Center in Chattanooga. Because of that, he got to become friends with Mufasa. Mufasa is the second biggest horse in the stables.

 

20180625_095235

Brodee got to ride Batman! This horse was gas-powered…

While trying to take a picture of Ean on Doc, Doc decided he was ready for his close-up.

20180625_094958

Dakota gave Albert a ride.

20180625_094554

Beauty was a very mild-mannered horse. She was a sweetie.

The rest of the day was spent driving through Pigeon Forge, on our way out to Smoky Mountain Knife Works. That is a store the boys have had a catalog from, and they’d been pouring over it for months. To actually go to the store, well that was a connection that had to be made! We also got to our campground and got settled in, just as the daily rain arrived to that part of town.

20180625_134746

We were driving right for this storm while on our way out to the knife store. It dumped on us in the parking lot!

20180625_140825

Look who we saw here! We have a Roy exactly like this one at home. He must’ve missed us…

20180625_162603

Some of the sights while driving through Pigeon Forge.

20180625_162224

Be sure to look closely at this picture. Pigeon Forge seems like a family-friendly version of Vegas.

 

20180625_162548

Recognize any familiar faces?

 

A Wickham-Awesome Weekend!

Upon leaving the Chattanooga National Cemetery, we were headed someplace special. Next stop, Walmart. No, that wasn’t it. Our final destination for the day was our friends’ home, the Wickhams.
For a few years, the Wickhams lived in CA. In Sonoma County, just like us. They attended our Healdsburg Church, and had three boys about the same ages as ours. Our friendship grew into more like “framily”, and it was hard to see them move back to the TN area. But it was a move God was calling them to make.
Since moving back to the area, they’ve added one more to their bunch. Liana Joy. And that she is. She’s Daddy’s number one fan, loves applesauce (who wouldn’t), and bath time. It was special getting to hold a little girl again. I hadn’t gotten to do that since my niece was that age eighteen years ago…
It seems the Southern skies know they’re supposed to rain every afternoon between 3 and 5. It’s something we’d encountered regularly for the past week or so. And that just so happened to be when we were pulling up to Jeff and Amy’s house. The sky didn’t just sprinkle. It didn’t just send down droplets. It sent down buckets. Each drop seemed like a bucket in itself. It was like the clouds decided since it was Friday, they might as well get rid of anything else they had. You know, lighten up for the weekend. So as we sat in the motorhome, looking at the 20 yard walk to the front door, we were in a quandry. Well, Albert and I were. Do we go out and get completely soaked before going into their house, or wait it out? The boys had no questions. They were not going to let some buckets falling from the sky keep them from their friends. You may be wondering why we didn’t get out our umbrellas. Well, when you’re packing for a trip, while in AZ, with the sun shining brightly and warming the days up to triple digits, one does not think of umbrellas. So, we had none.
Eventually, we all made it in without drowning, and the fun began!!

20180623_172939

Matthew had a lot of fun trying to find a stick Melbee wouldn’t chew. He never did. 🙂

20180623_173213

20180622_181230

Friday night’s dinner was Amy’s homemade pizza…need I say YUM!!! The crust is so yummy. The kids got to design their own pizza. (Pizza is a work of art!) From left to right, Dayne, Brodee, Ben, Bryan, Matthew, and Ean.

20180622_203718

Amy also is a prolific bread baker. These loaves are ready for the oven, and when they come out, they’ll be just what your heart was yearning for. She once baked twenty-one loaves in a day!

20180623_113212

We attended church at the Southern Adventist University campus church in Collegedale, TN.

20180623_113217

20180623_114242

On the way home, Jeff took us on a driving tour of the campus.

20180623_114303

If you’ve ever eaten a Little Debbie snack, they’re made in Collegedale, too. Not in this building, though. I think this is the Men’s Dorm. I’m quiet partial to Pecan Spinwheels, myself.

After church, we enjoyed a lunch of “Haystacks” at the Wickham’s.
If you’re not sure what Haystacks are, here’s the recipe. They’re simple and yummy!
HAYSTACKS
Main stack
tortilla chips
Spanish rice (optional)
beans
grated cheese
shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes

 

The following are optional garnishings.
salsa
sliced olives
diced avocado or guacamole
diced onion (any color)
sour cream

Place the main stack items on your plate in the order listed above. Add any desired garnishes and enjoy! Yum!!!

Amy’s sister and her family joined us. It was really fun to finally meet Loree and get to spend the afternoon together. And since the clouds hadn’t dumped all they were holding the day before, there was more rain, thunder, and lightening that afternoon. That thwarted our plans of a hike after lunch, so we got to visit even longer.
The rain finally stopped and we took off for the hike. Now, Jeff and Amy are the adventurous sort. They didn’t think of this hike in the usual sort of way – go out, walk for a while, turn around and come back. Instead, they packed up everything we’d need to enjoy a hot dog supper out by the creek, complete with their backpacking stove.

20180623_192049

The boys had to work up an appetite first.

20180623_191142

Brodee got up to twenty-three skips on one try.

20180623_191559

It was very sweet listening to Matthew say, “Wow, Dad!”, as he watched Jeff skip rocks across the river.

20180623_193820

 

 

20180624_130233

20180624_130235

Before heading out, there was a little time for some three-on-three.

It’s always hard to say good-bye, but this wasn’t good-bye. It was “until next time”…

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Falls In

20180622_103733Ruby Falls is located inside Lookout Mountain. There’s a cave passage that goes way inside the belly of the mountain, and for the right price, a guide will take you to it. Before our tour, we decided to take a peek from the Observation Tower.

 

 

20180622_104737

Being experienced travelers by now, the boys capitalized on the remaining minutes left by the people who’d paid to use the telescopes but left before their time was up.

20180622_104832

That’s the Tennessee River winding its way to Chattanooga. An expected beautiful view.

20180622_104709

What we didn’t expect to see was this. Somewhere down there in that ribbon-cutting crowd is the governor of TN and the mayor of Chattanooga. Ruby Falls was officially opening a new section of their establishment that day. Who knew? RF is a privately owned operation, and obviously a big deal to the area.

We waited for our tour to begin, which didn’t take long. You end up being in a large group, about forty to fifty people. A guide takes you down the elevator 260 ft into the ground. From there, you walk for about thirty minutes to get to the falls. There are stops along the way where neat stalagmites (mineral deposits that come up from the ground) and stalactites (the ones that hang from above) are pointed out. They’ve named them over the years according to what the namer thought it looked like…potato chips, angel wings, elephant foot, turtle, meat and potatoes…but some of the shapes, well, it was a little like constellations. You know what I mean. 20180622_12171920180622_12114220180622_124520

20180622_115009

That’s Martin, our guide, at the top of the picture. He’s a gentleman of about 6’4″ height. He had to duck sometimes. I never did.

By the time you get to Ruby Falls, you’re over 1100 feet under ground. But as Martin our guide pointed out, it’s not because you descended at all while walking. It’s because the mountain above you increases in elevation. Martin was a smart guy. And had a very dry sense of humor. He also gladly accepted tips at the end of the tour. Everybody works for tips!

On the way, Martin shared that Ruby Falls is named after the wife of the man who first discovered the falls after exploring the cave. He’d bought the rights to the mountain and cave after the miners were done with it. But no one knew there was a natural water fall back inside. He and a friend, along with a few employees, went exploring and found the waterous wonder after hours of crawling on their bellies. It became a local tourist attraction for a short time, but because of the Depression, sadly, the business venture failed.

 

 

 

 

20180622_120345

Today, it’s thriving. So much so, the governor and mayor come around for things like cutting a red ribbon.

The boys are looking more like Albert every day……….at least while in the Ruby Falls Gift Shop.

We had another important thing to see that day. We were headed to the Chattanooga National Cemetery.20180622_141538

We love listening to audio dramas created by Your Story Hour. This little production company has been around for decades, and they do stories about historical figures and events. One of the stories we enjoy is The Daring Locomotive Chase. If you’re not familiar with Your Story Hour, maybe you’ve seen Disney’s version of the story starring Fess Parker.

Either way, the story is one of great courage and unwavering dedication to duty. The true story took place during the Civil War. It involves Union spies going into Confederate territory. In the end, you could say the Confederates win. But the Union soldiers weren’t forgotten. They’re memorialized here at the National Cemetery. Rightly so.

At the end of the two-part story, the teller, Aunt Carol, tells listeners that if they’re ever in the Chattanooga area, they should stop by the cemetery and see the memorial. We mentioned to each other that would be fun someday. “Someday” came June 22, 2018!

20180622_14122920180622_141405

20180622_141258

There is headstone for each man, including the civilian who lost his life.

We hope you’ll listen to the story. Here’s a link to the Your Story Hour website.  https://www.yourstoryhour.org/

YSH even offers a free story of the week on their website. And be sure to watch Fess Parker. Very worthwhile.

 

 

What We Saw at Kennesaw

Waking up Thursday morning, knowing Denali was gone, was hard. Her family was in our thoughts and prayers throughout the day. We thought about her a lot.20180621_091201.jpg

After a good night’s sleep in the church parking lot, we took off for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. This site is historic to the Civil War. As you hike along, you can see markers showing places that were strategic to the Confederates.

20180621_092751

Yes, it says 1864!! And we’re walking on it!!!!!!!!

20180621_09324220180621_094810

20180621_094652

You can see the protective mounds built up around the cannons. Those were built by Confederate soldiers. It was such an indescribable experience knowing we were looking at something they built, and we were hiking on roads they walked. Ean couldn’t resist pretending he was firing that cannon.

20180621_101759.jpg

20180621_095256

20180621_101750

It wasn’t long before Ean had a new recruit!

20180621_101601

You’d think we, being from AZ, could get away from cacti while in GA —- nope!

20180621_091850

There is a fawn near the base of the trunk that’s leaning, left to right. The fawn was curious of Melbee, and vice versa. The fawn’s mama seemed unconcerned and kept right on munching in the background. The fawn came within 15 yards. It was beautiful.

20180621_095126

You earn your sweat on the first part of the hike. It’s a steep climb to the top. But once there, the views are worth it. That’s Atlanta off in the distance.

20180621_095141

Look closely above the top layer of blue in the middle of the picture. Right above in the light gray haze is the Atlanta skyline.

20180621_102022

That is someone’s home. So happy for them…!

20180621_121507

We completed the 5.8 mi hike. But along the way, we took a well-worn wrong turn, and ended up lost for a short while with another guy. (The boys loved the adventure!) We eventually got back on the right trail. Consequently, we really did more like a 6.5 mi hike. Either way, it was a really special time. There was a light sprinkle as we finished up the last mile. So refreshing!

We ended our day at a KOA up near the GA/TN border at Lookout Mountain. LM is another strategic Confederate site during the Civil War. Once at camp, we were able to relax after doing some laundry.

The campground dog park came with a fire hydrant. That was so funny. Mel played for a while and slept well that night, dreaming of the fun she had.