Thursday, July 21, 2011

Home Again

Got up and finished our trip home in time for the Fourth of July festivities up at the cottage...and some swimming.
We got to see some more family and enjoy the multitude of fireworks that people who are rich buy and shoot off for those up at the lake to enjoy.

Then we went home and enjoyed being back in our own beds, especially me, as there were a couple of nights where I shared a bed with Makenna.  The rest of the week was daily trips up to the cottage to visit with family and enjoy the nice cool lake.

Trip Home - Day 5

We woke up early and headed home via Ohio where we stopped at the COSI musuem (Center of Science and Industry).There were lots of things to do and play with - as you can see by this huge lite-brite type board.
They even had a water play area, where they were smart enough to have rain gear for kids
They also had a section on the body and this little piano played bodily noises - tons of fun as you can imagine.They also had this section where you could take some tests like strength and flexibility.  Chris and I first tried the strength test and he was quite miffed that I beat him.  So we tried again, and he came up with a higher number but I wasn't too far behind him.  Then we moved on to the flexibility test and I blew him out of the water - you can see by the picture below - this man has no flexibility whatsoever!  (I don't think I laughed so hard in a long time).
We also saw a 3D Imax movie about dinosaurs.  We were warned that it got a bit graphic in a couple of places, but Makenna still enjoyed it, and we covered her ears during the loud parts.

Then we continued our journey home.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trip to TN - Day 4

July 2nd
Today we split up into two groups.  Some went to downtown Nashville seeking some famous record store while Chris, Makenna, myself, and my Aunt Laura went to The Hermitage - home and plantation of President Andrew Jackson.  Again, no pictures could be taken inside, but the history was neat to hear.  We actually also got headphones and a recorder that we pressed numbers into to hear history as we walked the grounds.  It reminded me of all the trips in England and Europe that we did as we would get these same devices.

This was the slave cabin to Andrew Jackson's head slave "Alfred"

Aunt Laura put it in our heads that this would be a great tree to climb and Makenna was all for it!

She kept wanting to go higher.  When it was time to get down, then she realized going so high wasn't the best idea.When we left there we met up with the family at Centennial Park where the "Parthenon" is located.
A blurb about it from the website:  "Originally built in 1897, the Parthenon stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville's premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. It was built for Tennessee's Centennial Exposition to celebrate 100 years of Tennessee's statehood.

The building and the Athena statue are both full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals. The Parthenon also serves as the city of Nashville's art museum. The focus of the Parthenon's permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists."

Here's the huge statue of Athena:  (and I have no idea who that family is but they wouldn't leave.  Every time I tried to take a picture, they went right back to that spot to get another one, so I gave up and took one of them too).
After this it was off to find another place to eat.  We found "Montana's Bar and Grill" (I think that's what it was called,) after quite a hike on another hot sticky day.  I actually had a Bison burger and it was good.  It did taste like a hamburger, but I think my taste buds had my mind thinking it was "just okay" since I knew it was Bison. 

As we were walking to this place to eat I heard as clear as day, the sounds of a U2 song playing.  I was like "Wow, I wonder who's playing that U2 song so well?"  Come to find out, it was U2!  They were doing a sound check for a show that night at Vanderbilt Stadium for their 360 Tour.  I was shocked and saddened.  Of course, all the young kids professed not to know who U2 was, which was just blasphemy to me.  The waiter at the restaurant said that it's been sold out for 9 months.  If I had my way and it wasn't so dang hot, I would've just stayed at the park until after the concert and listened to them.  But Chris and I had already agreed to be "kid-sitters" for the night as the rest of the family went to the Grand Ole Opry for a show.

So after trudging our way back up to the car, we went back to the hotel, got stuck in traffic on the way, and it was more pool time.  Then the "adults" went off to the Grand Ole Opry and the kids, Chris, and I ordered Chinese.  We had put Makenna down for a nap as she desperately needed it but then she didn't want to wake up for dinner.

We got her up for about 10 minutes where she ate a couple spoon fulls of rice and then went back to bed.  Which was good because we had to get an early start to head back.

Trip to TN - Day 3

(Friday July 1st)
We all decided to go to Cheekwood which is a Botanical Garden (  The history is interesting as it has ties to Maxwell Coffee.  It honestly wouldn't have been on my list of things to do but it was nice and I enjoyed this large train exhibit they had set up.  I obviously like the little houses that were a part of the display.  The houses are representations of famous houses in TN, mostly Nashville I believe.

You can see some of the structure of the train exhibit:  (It was rather large and well done)

Then it was off to look at the gardens

Makenna did not want to miss any time with her new best friends...cousins Caitlyn and Anna

Then we went to the BelleMeade Plantation House (no pictures allowed inside).  It's well known for the Thoroughbred horses that trace their bloodlines back to BelleMeade (such as Seabiscuit, Secretariet, Smarty Jones, and Giacomo, to name a few).
It still had a few slave cabins on the property that we could go look at:

After that it was trying to find a place to eat for late lunch.  We drove somewhere that was famous and quite packed.  Don't know what it was called as we didn't stay but it had pictures of a lot of famous country singers.  We just ended up at some Mexican restaurant.  Then we went back to the hotel for swimming and relaxing from the oppressive heat.

We sat around the pool, ordered pizza's for dinner and talked.  It was nice to hear the brother's and sister's talk about old times.

Trip to TN - Day 2

We got up and headed further South to Sweetwater, TN and ended up at the next cavern called "Lost Sea Adventure"  You can read more about it here

It boasts to be America's largest underground lake.  To get to it, we had to go down this tunnel.

We also saw more stalactites and stalagmites, not as neat as yesterday's trip at Luray but this cavern had writings in it that were carbon tested to be back in the 1800's and it's believed some of these names and dates written were from confederate soldiers.

I think they called this the "devils" hole - the guide told the story that if you look down in to the hole and see the devil, it means that you're going to hell, if you don't see anything you're "safe."  He then went on to say that a little girl looked down whole and said she saw the devil.  It turned out to be one of the workers changing the light bulb.

We did go on the lake and someone a long time ago had brought in fish.  Since they would naturally have been in here, every time they go out on these boat rides, they feed the fish.  So they're quite large and it was neat to watch them literally jumping out of the water for the food.  Also, since it's typically pitch black in the cavern, these fish are actually blind now.

We then left that cavern and got to the hotel and had a little fish of our own swimming around.  She is now swimming without the aid of any flotation device.  She loves to jump in and then swim to the nearest person and hang on, or to the side of the pool to get out and jump in again.  Here she is with cousin Anna (in the middle) and cousin Caitlyn in the back.

Once everyone made it to the hotel, then we went out for food.  We decided to drive to downtown Nashville and walk around until we found a place we could all agree on (that took some doing as you can imagine).

The kids got to sit at their own table and Makenna loved every minute of not being hovered over by mom or dad.    (Anna in yellow shirt, Ryan in black shirt, Michael in purple shirt, Caitlyn in bright pink shirt)

The family:  (Chris, Lynn, Michael - all siblings)  The other two siblings (Laura and Bruce) were also in attendance and we missed Phyllis and her kids who couldn't make it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Trip to TN - Day 1

On Wednesday, June 29th, we started our trip down to Nashville.  Chris planned out our route and did all the driving (yeah!).  Our first stop was in Virginia at Luray Caverns.  
 I got this blurb from their website:

" Since discovery in 1878 by a tinsmith and a local photographer, visitors by the millions have made Luray Caverns the most popular cave in Eastern America and an internationally acclaimed destination.  4,000,000 centuries in the making beneath Virginia’s storied Shenandoah Valley, this “must see” U.S. Natural Landmark awaits your discovery."

"...cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10 stories high. Enormous chambers are filled with towering columns, shimmering draperies and crystal-clear pools.  Also in this subterranean wonderland, “Hear Rocks Sing” as you experience the haunting sounds of the world’s largest musical instrument, The Great Stalacpipe Organ. Completely unique are the beautiful tones created by this one-of-a-kind instrument, which makes music of concert quality from the surrounding stalactite formations covering more than three acres."

I do have to say the "organ" was pretty cool.  They hooked it up to different stalactite's throughout this one area in the cavern and it would play by hitting the stalactites, of which were all different sounding.

This picture does not do the "coolness" of this justice.  It's stalactite's that are being reflected by water on the bottom half of the picture.  It looked like a little underwater city.

This is the "famous" fried egg formation - and you do have to admit - it does look like one

Took a quick break after the caverns and you can see Makenna with her prized pink bracelet that daddy got for her at the gift shop.

Then it was off to the maze.  I think we did better at this maze than we did at the one at Iron Kettle back in October of last year.  We didn't find all the "spots" we were supposed to in order to get money off something in the gift shop but we found two out of four - which was pretty good - for us.  Plus we had to get going to our next stop.

The next part of the trip was taking a scenic ride through Shenandoah National Park.  The mountains were great to look at and there were many places along the way you could stop and pull over and look out.  We probably stopped about six or seven times and realized we could be there all night if we kept doing that so we finally opted to just finish driving through.

Makenna was calling family and friends on her phone to tell them of our trip

Even though these mountains were definitely beautiful to look at, I couldn't help but compare it to the French and Swiss Alps that we saw back in 2009 and these just didn't measure up.

Makenna is now taking a picture on her toy phone

We ended up eating dinner at a diner at the park, and then continuing our trip.  When we realized, that we could be here a long time, as the speed limit was only 35, we took the first opportunity to get off and continued on our trip.