Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer Road Trip, Pt. 2: Kentucky

After leaving the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, we hit the road for Kentucky. We drove roughly four hours to a town called Corbin for a little extended pit stop at Cumberland Falls, called the "Niagara of the South."I discovered this stop by Googling "things to do on I-75 between Florida and Detroit," which apparently is a common query. A number of things popped up, but this seemed like a good way for the kids to expend a little energy without spending any additional money. And they were boht really excited to see a waterfall (though it was often referred to as a water "fountain")!

We drove through Tennessee...

...on our way to Kentucky!

We didn't spend long at the falls, but it was really nice to get out and stretch our legs and take in some pretty scenery. You can walk to a little overlook right at the top of the falls, then continue on down a trail/steps for a full view from a distance. They also had a gift shop and a "mining" activity but we didn't partake of those offerings.

View from the top of the falls

Ellie checking things out from further away

Family at the falls

The view

Sweet E.J.

Happy kids on a rock

Ellie playing in the mining station

Checking out the riverbank at the top of the falls

Pretty Ellie!

After a short walk, it was back in the car for another hour and a half until we reached our hotel for the evening in Georgetown, Kentucky. The weather was pretty rotten when we arrived but we braved the elements to run across the street to a Fazoli's for dinner, then got everyone settled into bed.

I should mention how well it went having both kids share a room on this trip! It was entirely unexpected. Right before we left E.J. started having trouble going to bed at night (as soon as you left his room he would stand up and cry totally heart-wrenching things like, "Mama, wait! Don't go, Mama! Stay, Mama! I scared!"), so I really worried how it would all work out. I had visions of E.J. refusing to sleep and Ellie (and thus, the rest of us) paying the price. But instead, I think it actually helped him to have Ellie with him. When he would pop up and start crying, she would lean over to him and tell him that it was okay, she was there, and calm him down. Then, in the mornings, they would wake up and chat with each other until Eric and I came to get them. It was wonderful!

Ellie calming E.J. down after I put them to bed in Kentucky

In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then gathered our things and drove roughly a half hour north to the Ark Encounter. This attraction just opened a few weeks prior to our visit, and it is what you might imagine: a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark. I didn't even know such a thing existed, and Eric came across it totally by accident when he was searching for hotels in Kentucky and saw some mentioning being in a great location for the Ark. Upon discovering it, we thought, well, somebody built an Ark directly on our path from Florida to Detroit, so it seems like we should stop to see that. So we did.

We arrived and parked (parking fees are not included with admission, FYI if you're planning a trip) and then took the shuttle from the parking lot to the Ark. It was quite impressive, I must say.

The Ark!

Ready to explore!

Inside, it was very interesting. There were replicas of animal housings (and some good attention to detail, I thought: in the lower decks of the ship you could hear the waves beating against the ark, and thunder and lightning, and birds chirping in their cages), and of course, depictions of the living quarters for Noah and his family. There was also a lot of information to absorb, describing how exactly this whole Ark thing could actually have worked. Basically, if you have a question about how it could have been possible, they had an answer for it. I would have loved to spend more time reading through all the signage and examining the displays, but we really moved through it pretty quickly because, well, kids. It was neat, though.

Small animal housing

Bears in a cage

A sample of the kinds of questions that were answered around the ship

Sample replica of the living quarters

The kitchen

The dove with the olive branch

When we had toured the ark we explored the grounds a little bit. They had a little petting zoo that we took advantage of, and a few other animals on exhibit. They also offered camel rides, but the fee for that was not included with admission (which was already a bit on the high side, in my opinion), so we skipped that.

"Hi, goat!"

Petting a donkey

"That's a crazy bird!"

Before leaving, we stopped to have a nice little picnic lunch underneath the ark.

Enjoying lunch!

Eric and E.J. beneath the Ark

One last look on our way out

Then, it was back to the car to continue on to Detroit! That will be coming up next week!

To see more pictures from Cumberland Falls, click here.

To see more pictures from the Ark Encounter, click here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Road Trip, Pt. 1: Atlanta

I'd like to take a few days now and share all the fun we had on our road trip this summer! The trip was centered around my annual family reunion in Cleveland, so that was how we decided when we would go and generally set our course, though the timing ended up being slightly stressful. We signed a lease on our new house and gave notice to vacate at our old house just a couple of weeks before we left, so by our road trip departure date our house was largely in boxes (and entirely in shambles) and we knew we had the worst parts of moving waiting for us upon our return. But, we tried to put that out of our minds and hit the road!

Last year, we took an eastern course up to Cleveland, with stops in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. This year, we stayed further west as we made our way north, and our first stop was Atlanta, Georgia. We left early in the morning on July 31 and drove five hours to Atlanta, arriving in time for a midday Braves game at Turner Field!

We're off!

Crossing over into our first state!

You may remember it is Eric's goal to see a regular-season baseball game played in all 30 Major League Baseball Stadium. During our New York years, we made pretty decent progress on that list, and we checked off a few more during our midwestern road trip when Ellie was a baby. But since then, our efforts have been at a standstill, so it was good to get things going again! Turner Field brought Eric's stadium count up to 20, mine to 16, Ellie's to five and E.J.'s to two (he has some catching up to do!). We're making progress!

At Turner Field

Upon arrival, we snapped some pictures outside and then went inside as they were singing the National Anthem. We were pretty hungry, so first on our agenda was finding a shady spot to eat some hot dogs. (It was HOT.)

These kids are ready for some baseball!

The kids and Hank Aaron's number

They were PSYCHED for those hot dogs.

Eric and I enjoyed some tasty burgers!

Ellie taking good care of her little brother

Then, we let the kids burn off some of their five-hours-in-the-car energy in the kids' play area. They had a great time playing on the miniature baseball fields!

What a natural!

Ellie's at the plate!

It's outta here! Home run!

E.J. in the outfield

E.J. gets some pretty good height, there!

This wasn't in the kids' area, but Ellie wanted to take a picture with the "Statue of Liverty." She has been really fixated on going to New York City to see it (for the second time, since the first time she wasn't even six months old yet). She's even saving her coins to pay for a plane ticket!

Then, we took a quick family photo out by the field just in time before a rain delay!

Enjoying a day at the ballpark!

You can see the 1996 Olympic torch in the distance from the stands!

When the rain cleared, we found some empty seats in the shade and sat for a while. There were lots of empty rows in front of us, so the kids just ran around and played, and we relaxed and actually watched some baseball. To our surprise, we made it through all nine innings of the game, including the rain delay! We certainly did not anticipate that with two small kids in tow.

Pulling back the tarp! Let's play ball!

E.J. keeping us on our toes

Enjoying the game

Home run!

Ellie's reaction to the fireworks

Father and son

After the game, kids were allowed to run the bases, so we joined the loooooooooooong line for that. As we waited, Homer the Brave came around to greet the kids.

HIgh fives for Homer

Eventually, we were led out onto the field. The kids were lined up to run the bases while the adults were ushered up into the stands. It wasn't especially well-executed, and parents were still trying to walk to a good viewing spot as their kids were running, causing pileups and lots of screaming from Turner Field employees, but oh well. Ellie ran like a pro and we were so proud of her! When she finished, they gave her a certificate to mark the occasion and a t-shirt.

Down on the field before Ellie ran the bases

Go, Ellie!

She LOVED it.

Sporting her new shirt

VIDEO: Ellie running the bases at Turner Field. (Sorry for the shakiness! As I mentioned, we were being rushed along through the stands as she was running, so I did the best I could! Just look for her little pink dress!)

And that was it for the baseball game! We were staying in a hotel just across the street, so we ran back there (the rain had returned as the kids ran the bases!), checked in and then went to get dinner at Gus's Fried Chicken. We ate at Gus's in Memphis on our midwestern road trip and loved it, so when we saw there was one in Atlanta, we had to have it! We planned to dine in but the service as terrible, so we ended up ordering to go (also terrible). The food, however, was tasty, and we made it into a picnic on our hotel room floor.

Hotel picnic dinner!

And, on the way to Gus's, we were able to drive past the torch from the 1996 Olympics!

What a way to get us in the spirit for this year's games in Rio!

After dinner we got the kids to bed and then retired ourselves after unwinding with a little wine. We had a one-bedroom hotel suite, so the kids shared the bedroom and Eric and I slept on the World's Worst Sleeper Sofa in the living room. Our sleep was interrupted at 5:00 a.m. when the fire alarm went off because a hotel employee burned the toast for breakfast, but luckily, the kids slept right on through it. Phew! That was lucky!

When we woke up, we had some breakfast at the hotel then packed up and checked out. We were departing Atlanta that day, but decided to make a quick stop at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library on our way out. We enjoyed the museum, and a particular highlight was the replica Oval Office.

The kids at the Presidential Library museum

Our "future president" (or so says her shirt) in the replica Oval Office

The library above the museum

Carter's Nobel Peace Prize

Outside the library

And that was it for Atlanta! Next stop: Cumberland Falls, Kentucky!

To see more pictures from Atlanta, check out our Shutterfly share site here.