Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ERT16 Day 11

This was an amazing day...

Mommy was scheduled for a half-day break: Hair appointment and food...Yay! (There was a nail appointment scheduled too, but that was a bust). I rejoined the family after lunch at the City Museum after they had already spent the morning there. What an amazing museum! Never had I seen so many nooks and crannies crammed into one place. The kids could crawl, climb and hide for days.  There was also a train ride, human hamster wheel, ball pit, slides, a mini-train ride, rope swings, painting station, and plenty of room to run... and virtually everything in the museum was made out of recycled materials ... down to the metal wall made out of lunch pans. Incredible. And tons of fun.

We closed out the museum and wrapped up St. Louis today with a visit to the Old Courthouse and a number of exhibits (mostly Lewis & Clark related). The finale was a sushi dinner, and then it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for Kansas City.

Monday, May 30, 2016

ERT16 Day 10

1st full day in St. Louis. Simple itinerary: Breakfast at the hotel, visit the Arch, lunch at Fitz's, and wrap up with some time in the hotel swimming pool and game room. Fun day! The Arch was amazing, by the way. Between the trip to the top, getting sworn in as Junior Rangers, the movie and museum, we easily spent several hours there. Completely fascinating!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

ERT16 Day 09

Today we packed up our camping stuff and traveled to our next stop: St. Louis, Missouri. That was a five-hour drive, but we decided to break it up with lunch, miniature golf, and lazer tag along the way. That was a lot of fun. It was the kids' first time doing that, and mommy and daddy's first time since I was pregnant with Justin (I went into labor about 12 hours later).

The kids were quick to point out that hotel in St. Louis (Clayton Plaza Hotel) was "fancy!" Marble floors and counters everywhere, grand piano in the lobby, heated indoor / outdoor pool, game room (with throwback games like frogger and pac-man). Definitely a step up from our usual hotel stops. Speaking of which, a funny thing happened. The hotel oversold their 2 room suites, so (since we didn't list the kids on our reservation) they thought they'd be doing us a favor by upgrading us to the honeymoon suite... complete with a heart-shaped jacuzzi, and a California king bed. Once we checked in with three kids in tow, they realized that they missed the honeymoon by a few months. I don't have much of a choice but to make due for tonight (which isn't terrible... the room is super spacious) but my guess is that tomorrow we'll switch to more family friendly digs.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

ERT16 Day 08

Today we had to move to a new campsite because our site was rented for the next night. We found a flat site that was much bigger and closer to the restrooms. It was nice, but in general we were still been reminded of how spoiled we were at the Deep Creek Campgrounds in NC. At Deep Creek, there were five individual / private bathrooms, each with it's own shower, and we had the whole campgrounds to ourselves. Here there are about a million more people, the bathroom only has two stalls, the showers are in a separate area that we have to drive to, and they have a 10 minute limit. But then again, this is what makes camping fun: roughing it in the unexpected.

Justin wasn't feeling well this morning (fever and sore throat) so Daddy and the girls went on a couple of short hikes without us. I stayed back with Justin, fed him, gave him meds, and rested with him. Eventually he felt better and even went to play laser tag with some nice boys across the way. We found out they were homeschooled, and had a lot of the same values that we do (e.g., Justin thought it was cool that they couldn't watch the Minions movie either).

As our big event for the day, we did the Frozen Niagara guided cave tour... and it was okay. We picked the shortest one because of the kids and their attention span, but it was almost too short for the adults and not enough wow for the kids. Perhaps we'll come back when they're older and do a longer tour; some spelunking that actually involves crawling, helmet lights and a little bit of dirt. On the other hand, the museum at the visitor's center was amazing! Super informative.

Friday, May 27, 2016

ERT16 Day 07

After checking out of the hotel we traveled to Crossville, TN, where we stopped for a few hours at Cumberland State Park. We got the look while we were there, which was interesting because it made us realize that we didn't get the look while we were in Bryson City, NC, (which is no more diverse than Crossville) for the past week. I guess the folks in Bryson City are used to having tourist around since the national park so close by. One nice gentleman at the restaurant felt obligated to let us know that there were 20 (other) black people in that town... but not to worry, because we were welcome. Well... all righty then.

Anyhow, after a nice lunch and a few hours of activity, we hit the road again and made it to Mammoth Cave Park in Kentucky by about 7. We set up camp and went to bed... all just in time because then it poured for hours! PTL!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

ERT16 Day 06

Moving Day.  The highlights:

  • The kids and I had a scavenger hunt while Daddy miraculously reloaded the car
  • We ate cereal and hit the road towards Gatlinburg
  • On the way, we stopped at Grotto falls. Daddy took the muddy strenuous hike alone (2.6 miles roundtrip) while Naomi napped in the van, I rested, and the J's watched more Star Wars. 
  • We also stopped at the Ephraim Bales Cabin, historic home of a family of 11. Seventy-two acres and probably less than 150 square feet of living space to raise 9 kids. That's just crazy.
  • We checked into a hotel in Gatlinburg, swam, ate pizza, and broke out the iPads for the first time. Speaking of pizza, we weren't able to avoid all of Jasmine's food sensitivities during our five days of camping, but she hasn't had an allergic reactions! Praise the Lord.