Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 3 -- Oklahoma and Texas

I thought we were actually stopping in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, but it turns out the KOA was in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.  So, we crossed through all of Arkansas on Day 2 and started into Oklahoma.  I included pictures of our tent and campsite on the last post.  It was a pretty little campsite, but we couldn't see much of it last night when we were setting up the tent in the dark.  It seemed like the ground was fairly flat, but it was actually a slight incline, so we all side downhill a bit in the nights.  But, the kids are such sound sleepers that I don't think they noticed much of anything.

Pop tarts for breakfast then we broke down the camp and got on the road by 10:15.  It's all interstate driving today, which makes it easier.  Plus, it's Memorial Day holiday, so none of the road crews are working on the roads.  Only things that is odd is that there are basically no rest areas in the state of Oklahoma.  There are several places you can pull over and "rest" with trash cans, but no where to go to the bathroom.  Looks like we will be stopping at Walmart, Dairy Queen, or Sonic along the way.  

For those of you who haven't seen the minivan, here is what it looks like all loaded down for the trip.  The thing on the back is our "saddlebag" or "fanny pack."  It's a great way to carry a lot of stuff without having all of the wind resistance of a top carrier.  All of the sleeping bags, air mattresses, tent, and pillows are in the fanny pack.  All of the clothing bags are in the car, along with the food.   So far we've gotten great gas mileage (22-23 mpg), but that will change as we move out of the plain states and into the mountains.  This picture was taken in Shawnee, Oklahoma where we stopped at Denny's for lunch.  The kids are hoping that we get to the new campsite in Amarillo early enough that they can go swimming before dinner. 
We just passed Hinton, OK whose motto is "Crossroads of America with over 65 hotel rooms".  Makes you really want to stop and sightsee, right?  David has been counting road kill as he has been driving to keep himself entertained.  The exchange kids keep trying to get a picture of a smooshed armadillo since they've never seen on (of course live would be better, but we've only seen the roadkill version thus far).

We also passed Stillwater, OK (shout out to George Cline).  It's right before Oklahoma City, so I guess it doesn't count as a podunk town out in the middle of nowhere.  Oklahoma City has a new bypass around the city which is very nice (much nicer than the non-improved sections of road which seem to be competing with Mississippi).  But, the GPS was very confused and thought we were driving off in the middle of nowhere and it kept trying to get us back onto I-40.

Yeah!  Only 201 miles to Amarillo!  At this rate we should get there by 5:30 and the kids can swim for a hour or so before we head off to the Big Texan Steak Ranch Steakhouse.  I thought the kids were adventurous in trying out alligator the other night, but none of them want to try Mountain Oysters (caption on their menu reads "If you think it's seafood, you should order the shrimp").  Daniel would like to try for the 72 oz steak contest (if you can eat it all in one sitting, it's free), but I don't think we are going to gamble with that.  I think he'll just have to settle for the 24 oz T-bone!

 I must say that even though there are just miles of corn, wheat, and windmills, this state is prettier than Mississippi.  At least there are some rolling hills here.  Btu, there are a lot of the new wind energy wind turbines here which tells you that is is also fairly windy.  I saw one of the old Lindy gas stations for Route 66 off the side of the road, but wasn't quick enough with my camera to get a picture.  We also just packed a black billboard with a small yellow smiley face in the middle that said "Shiny, happy billboard".  What's that supposed to mean?

So we did eat last night at the Big Texas Ranch Steak restaurant.  It was great!  Daniel and David had two 8 oz filets (each), Erin had a 12 oz rib eye, I had a 16 oz NY Strip, Jaeyong had an 18 oz rib eye, and Bow had a full rack of pork ribs (she couldn't decide if buffalo counted as beef or not, so she opted for pork).  They also have a competition there that if anyone can eat a 72 oz sirloin, 3 fried shrimp, a salad, and a baked potato in an hour, it is free.  I wasn't letting the boys try it (you have to sit on a big platform in front of everyone with a timer over your head counting down -- an you pay $72 for the meal if you don't finish), but three guys did attempt it while we were there -- a guy from France, a guy from Russia, and a guy from Kentucky.  We didn't stay long enough to see if they finished. 

But, we did get to swim in the pool for an hour which was a lot of fun!  Our Kamping Kabin (gotta love the KOA with everything spelled with a K) was also really nice. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 2 -- The Delta

Today we got an earlier start and toured Cleveland, MS. David and the kids saw Delta State University, the houses where I lived, and Cotton Row.

Then we drove over to Great River Rd. State Park, but couldn't go in because of flooding. But, we got to see the top of the levee and the Mississippi River when we crossed in Greenville.

We also so the great Indian Mounds of Winterville Attached is a picture of us on top of the mounds.

Mississippi has the worst roads of any state we've been in thus far. Next stop will be Pine Bluff, AR for a late lunch and then to Hot Springs National Park. We are lucky that they are open until 8 pm tonight because we will barely make it by 5 pm.

Attached are several pictures from Hot Springs State Park. Unfortunately, we are too early for the music festival which is next weekend. David really wants to come back in the future for it. Maybe next summer!

The stained glass is from the ceiling of the men's bath room. The kids are in front of the fountain in that room along with a statue of de Soto. The other picture is of the kids in front of a a natural fountain in town.

On to Sonic for dinner (in scenic Waldron, AR) and then camping tonight. It's going to be dark by the time we get to our campsite and set up. It's already 8 pm and we still have about an hour and a half to go.

...(10:05) We went through Fort Smith, AR, around 9:30 and then crossed the river into Oklahoma. Just a few more miles to the campground.... Good thing we practiced setting up the tent at home! Tomorrow will be our last long day of driving for a while--all the way across Oklahoma to Amarillo, TX.

The kids all seem to be well now (over their illnesses) and in good spirits. Jaeyong wounds from his fall down the driveway seem to be healing well. Only his elbow hasn't generated new skin, but none of it is infected.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

On our way!

Well so much for leaving in the morning on Saturday! Bow was out all night with friends watching movies and playing games and Jaeyong didn't get home until 12:45, so no one was awake early. By the time we got all of the last minute items packed it was 2 pm and then we got lunch at Qs. So we actually pulled out of Jacksonville at 3 pm.

The car is completely full. Every nook and cranny is filled. Hopefully we will eat some of the food along the way and that will clean us out. It's a hard trip for me because we decided no sodas--just water (and flavored water packets). So, I won't be able to have my regular cherry coke. But, we just didn't have the space.

Now we are headed to Oxford, MS (via Cullman, AL). Then on to Cleveland, MS for the night. I wanted to show David where I worked at Delta State. University.

We ate supper at Oby's cajun restaurant in Oxford, MS. All of the kids got alligator (only Bow had tried alligator before and liked it). David had crawfish étouffée and wished he had some Mylanta after that!

It was late when we got to Cleveland 11 pm). But we are here now and ready for bed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Finals Week, Piano Recitals, and Illness

It's finals week in Jacksonville for the high school kids.  And you know what that means -- everyone suddenly gets sick!  Bow was the first and worst -- she had a stuffy nose, cough, and then fever.  She went to school Friday long enough to take her biology final, but then came home.  It didn't get better over the weekend, and she is still struggling.  So, we are hoping that she is well enough to take her English final tomorrow!  Now all the rest of the kids are getting the stuffy head, runny nose, etc., but no one seems sick enough to miss finals.

Also, we went to Daniel and Erin's piano recitals on Friday night.  I've uploaded some of the videos from their recitals.  David and Daniel played a duet together as well.

Daniel playing Chopin

Erin playing Fur Elise

Daniel and David Playing Weber Together

Events on Our Trip

Well, I'm in the final stages of getting all of our trip events together.  In addition to driving tons of places, hiking, and so forth, I've tried to build in a few memorable events into the trip.  First, we will be taking a hot air balloon ride from Albuquerque on May 30.  We have to get there at dawn, but we will get to fly over the desert as the cactus bloom.  Second, we will be riding Pike's Peak Cog Railway in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Erin's birthday.  Third, we will be taking a half-day horseback ride through the narrows and the Virgin River in Zion's National Park, Utah.  Fourth, we will be seeing David Copperfield's performance in Las Vegas.  Fifth, we will be going to Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland in Los Angeles.  Six, we will tour Alcatraz in San Francisco.  Seventh, we will ride to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle.  Eighth, we will go horseback riding in the Eastern Oregon wilderness (Erin will get to go every day for 2 full weeks, but David, Daniel, Moritz, and I will probably get to go once or twice).  Ninth, we will get to see a production of Kiss Me, Kate by the Utah Festival Opera in Logan.  Tenth, we will get to go on a Float trip down the Snake River in the Grand Teton National Park.  Finally, we will get to go to Mackinac Island and cross the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. 

That's not to mention all of the National Parks and National Monuments we will be visiting:   Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas), Petroglyph National Monument (New Mexico), Pecos National Historical Park (New Mexico), Manitou Cliff Dwellings (Colorado), Garden of the Gods (Colorado), Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), Colorado National Monument (Colorado), Arches National Park (Utah), Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah), Zion National Park (Utah), Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah), Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona), Giant Sequoia National Monument (California), Sequoia National Park (California), Kings Canyon National Park (California), Yosemite National Park (California), Lassen National Volcanic Park (California), Lava Beds National Monument (California), Crater Lake (Oregon), Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (Oregon), Lewis and Clark National Historic Park (Oregon), Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (Oregon), The Great Salt Lake (Utah), Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming), Devil's Tower National Monument (Wyoming), Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota), Crazy Horse Memorial (South Dakota), Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota), Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota), Badlands National Park (South Dakota), and Grand Island National Recreation Area (Michigan).

I'm also thinking that the weekend after we get home, we may take Moritz to Six Flags in Atlanta if everyone isn't too burned out!

All in all, I think we are at 10,000+ miles for this trip.  Hopefully we enjoy in and don't feel the burning desire to leave the kids on the side of the road in New Mexico!

Updated Map

So, we decided to change our route a bit so we can go through Michigan and eat at Marika's German restaurant in Lexington on our way home.  So, for all of you who are following us, here is the newest map:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day With Mom and Grandma Ream

A little early, but I got to celebrate Mother's Day with my Mom and Grandma today. Grandma was having a BBQ dinner at her place today for families, so Mom, Katlin, and I went. We helped her update her Facebook page, use google maps, and gave her presents. Then I came home and gave Mom her earrings. Both seemed to really like their presents.

David Visiting Michael

So, while I've been in Oregon, David has been home with the kids. This weekend David went down to visit Michael. Here are some photos of the kids from that visit.

Katlin and Heidi's Post-graduation Trip

So, after returning to Oregon, Katlin and I went on a mini-vacation.  We headed up to Spokane, Washington.  Apparently I'm very bad at estimating town sizes because I thought Spokane was fairly small (maybe 50,000) and it's like 200,000.  So, I was surprised by how big it was.  We stayed at a Quality Inn which was super-nice (that is the people were nice, and the rooms were just typical).   We also saw Whitworth University (Presbyterian) in Spokane.

Our first day we played mini-golf, disc golf, and laser tag.  The disc golf course was in an abandoned neighborhood, so it was really neat.  You'd be playing where people's steps, yards, and driveways were.  The fairways for several holes were the roads in the neighborhood.  I'm not sure why they removed all of the houses and put a park there, but they apparently did in the '70s.  We also ate at Rock City Grill downtown.

Bowling in at Northbowl in Spokane

The next day we went shopping to some neat stores in downtown Spokane -- REI, Wonders of the World, White's boots, etc. and had fun.  Then we traveled to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  We went to see the dam at Post Falls.  It had so much water going over it!  Then we ate at Tito Macaroni's downtown.

The Dam at Post Falls
Me At Post Falls Dam

Me and Katlin at the Dam
  On the third day we went to a bunch of schools in Spokane and then Walla Walla -- Gonzaga (Catholic), Whitman, and Walla Walla University (7th Day Adventist).  The best part of the boring drive was that there was a roadside sign for a trash can (like a series of signs that said "Litter Depository Ahead" and then a trash can on the side of the road).  Awesomeness!  Then we toured the Pendleton Woolen Mills.  That was really fun to see how they made all the blankets and inspected them all by hand.

The Dyed Wool Being Combed
A Nearly Completed Blanket
A Blanket Being Inspected
The Loom Weaving a Blanket

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Katlin's Graduation

The Scotsman Bagpipers at USU
Faculty Procession Across Campus

Katlin Getting Her Degree
So, Katlin graduated from college!  I flew to Boise and then drove to Utah State with my parents to see Katlin graduate from college.  Her graduation was fun because all of the people in her college have "character."  For example, during the ceremony, I learned what "Chacos" were (they are shoes with strappies that tighten that all the outdoors people wear).  It was a lot of fun and we had some great food (Indian, Mexican, and Aggie Ice Cream).

Mom, Katlin, and Dad
Katlin's Gift from Renee

One other thing we found that was interesting on campus was the campus crosswalk sign had been modified to hold a red bull and have wings (because red bull gives you wings!).  Great picture!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Our Route

Our Route!
Many of our friends and family have asked about our route, so I thought I'd give you a snapshot of our TripTik.  It's a pretty big loop -- 8770 miles!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Start of a Blog

We are getting ready to start our grand adventure this summer.  We are traveling across the USA - southern route first, then up the Pacific coast, and then northern route back.  I'll try to keep people updated on where we are going, what we've done, and any other interesting things we encounter on this trip.

But, first, I'm headed to Utah for Katlin's graduation!