Friday, August 24, 2012

Our Midwest Trip, Part 4: Kamp, Grandma's, & Heading Home

We have Georgia friends who are from Nebraska.   This is the second year we have gathered near Omaha for "Kamp Lotta Kids" at my friend's childhood home.

Kamp Lotta Kids is the perfect recipe for fun:
11 Nebraska kids
9 Georgia Kids
5 St. Bernards
3 horses
1 pool with slide

There really are no words for Kamp Lotta Kids (and dogs and horses) so I'll provide a few glossy photos instead:

Pool games including: greasy watermelon relay race, whale riding races, and a crazy ping pong ball game.

Game winners gloated:  They got to shovel horse poop!

It's hard to tell if anybody is having fun at Kamp Lotta Kids:

You've heard of sun tea.  How about sun smores?

 Just one note:  

Add the chocolate last or you'll have chocolate soup.

Kamp Lotta Kids does the Omaha Zoo

It's group photo time!

19 kids, 7 parents, 3 grandparents,
 5 St.Bernards, 3 horses, and one watermelon baby stand-in

We did it!

After Kamp Lotta Kids we zipped over to my Grandma & Grandpa's house in southeastern Illinois for a couple of days. On the way there our GPS said "turn left in 500 feet." The only thing in site was a gravel road.

Oh well!  I figure it's been down a gravel road before. 
  When we got there Grandpa said "You went through Hutton?"   Grandpa says we could have taken a paved road to get there but what kind of trip would it be without a little adventure!
Grandma's got company!
two peas in a pod
Painting rocks is a favorite activity at Grandma's house!

Nestled in beside the blackberries.  

Heading home...

...back over the river (Ohio) and through the woods.

Home is nice but mostly we're thinking  "How soon can we go again?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our Midwest Trip, Part 3: Kansas City

The World War I Museum was the whole reason we stopped in Kansas City.  It seems like we have many opportunities to learn about the Civil War and WWII but not WWI.    Little wonder!  The WWI Museum in Kansas City is the only WWI museum in the entire country.

Some of my favorites at the museum were the propaganda posters, shell casing art, and welcome home banners.

It's a little easier to appreciate someone else's restoration project, now.  This particular truck was ready to be sent to Europe just as the war ended.  Since it wasn't needed for the war, it was re-purposed as a truck.  Before coming to the museum, it was painstakingly restored as an ambulance by the son of an USAAS driver.

While I didn't see anyone in the "over 30 category" give this display more than a first glance, this interactive table was exactly what my kids needed to get sucked into WWI history.  The museum was busy but there just weren't many kids there at all; we had this great display all to ourselves.

We loved sitting in our own little sound booth to hear "sounds of the times."    We listened to poetry, journal entries, and music from the time.  Since we've been home, I've heard little voices around the house singing "Over there, Over there...."  We won't soon forget the songs or the poppies that represent 1,000 deaths each.

The kids and I got back to the trailer at dinner time after putting in a full day at the WWI museum. By then, Brian was done with his workday.  We grabbed a quick bit to eat at "Up Dog!"  (This is the part where you're supposed to ask:  "What's Up Dog?'")  Well, since you asked, it's a 50s-themed hotdog joint.  We sat a the counter (all the while swiveling on our stools) and scarfed our dogs.

Then, speaking of opportunities to learn about WWII,   we headed to the Harry Truman Library and Museum.   We were grateful that the Truman Library is open late on Thursdays in the summer;  that means that Brian got to go with us.   We stayed until they kicked us out at nine.

Hey!  Cut that out, kids!  I mean it!  The buck stops here!
Friday, the kids and I visited Leila's Hair Museum, the world's only hair museum.  (Yes, it's weird.)  How could we possibly pass up the opportunity though?  We moseyed around Independence, MO and grabbed a cool treat at Clinton's pharmacy.

After Brian's workday we headed to Country Club Plaza: the nation's first outdoor shopping mall built with cars in mind.  I wasn't too excited about seeing an outdoor shopping mall when the outside temperature was near 100 but I was not disappointed.  The fountains were amazing as were all of the architectural details. Come to think of it, the Anthropology store wasn't that bad either.

Saturday was another epic day of museums:

Harry Truman's house
At Truman's house we were privileged to visit the back porch, the kitchen, and the dining room. These rooms were reserved for close friends and family of the Trumans.  Visiting presidents and dignitaries were invited only into the front parlor (which was intentionally awkward and uncomfortable.)

Steamboat Arabia Museum:
In 1856 a merchant steamboat called "Arabia" sank in the Missouri river. Over the years, the shape of the Missouri river changed. In 1988 some men decided to look for the legendary "Arabia." They found it in mud 45 feet beneath a cornfield in Kansas. 

The men hunting the Arabia intended to sell its contents at an auction.  Lucky for us, they were so taken with the Arabia they decided to open a museum instead!

Rivet gawking at the Airline History Museum:
I wish I could tell you more about this place but most of the information fell out already.  This was our 6th museum in 3 days.  I think my brain was fried by the time we got here.  We still enjoyed looking at all of their great restorations and listening to the stories to go with them.
I especially loved seeing the Curtiss Wright flight trainer! 
Our intention was to stay in Kansas City for a couple of days and then head up to Des Moines, Iowa.  There are so many great things to do in the Kansas City/Independence area that we never made it to Des Moines.  We learned that Independence Missouri was the actual starting point for westward expansion.  (Don't tell that to St. Louis, Missouri!)  The Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails all started in Independence.  We had to make one last stop before leaving Kansas City/Independence.

 So many wagons in one city left a mark.  Even after all these years you can still see the wagons ruts, called swales.  You'll just have to take my word for it, or go see for yourself, because I didn't get a very good picture of the swales. 

 Ironic that the starting place for trips to the west was almost as far west as we would make it for this trip.   This place must have some kind of pull from the past.  Being this far west just made us ache all the more to go farther.  Someday.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Midwest Trip, Part 2: It's All Relative

Our reunion at Lake Ouachita was a hit!
We had story telling, game playing (dominoes, horseshoes, corn hole, name-that-family-member fun facts game,) homemade ice cream making (and more importantly, eating.)  One of our favorite reunion traditions is the silent auction.  We all bring thing to sell. For a couple of hours the bidding is open and we are welcome to place our bids on a sheet of paper in front of the items. The auction proceeds pay for our reunion activities.  It can get pretty intense sometimes but it always seems all grudges are off by the time the next reunion rolls around.

Our turn on the boat rented for the reunion:
Some were brave enough to go tubin' and some weren't.  
We all had a great time! 

What's that behind the trees?

Testing, testing, ding, ding, ding!
The first item to be baked in our oven is cinnamon rolls for breakfast!

Now that I think about it, this was the only time I used the oven on our entire trip.  I brought lots of non-perishables but warm meals in the trailer just didn't happen this trip.  Maybe we'll do more hot meals in the trailer as the weather gets cooler.  For the duration of our trip the outside temperature was at our near 100.  Our air conditioner did a pretty good job but mostly we found ourselves seeking a nice cool place for dinner where someone else did all the work (and dishes.)   Plus, it is just too tempting to try out the local restaurants when we're in a new place.

We took a small break from the reunion to check out our smallest National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  The Fordyce Bathhouse, which was in operation from 1915 until 1962 serves as a museum for the park.
The details in the bathhouse were so extraordinary that they reminded us of the Biltmore!  Lavish decorations weren't the only means for attracting customers: bathhouse owners also hired "bathhouse patrons" to ride trains and persuade potential bathers to come to their particular bathhouse (sneaky!)

After the reunion we headed to a tiny town in north Missouri to visit my aunt. 

The kids were delighted when her cat Tippy came to visit us in our trailer.

she has the best critters:  cats, horses, miniature horses, geese, cows;

Not to mention all the other fun stuff we did: four wheeling, meeting local folks, eating ice cream, going for a Can-Am ride, and watching rodeo practice: calf roping

Before heading toward Kansas City we had one last stop in the morning, the cattle auction.  If you're ever in Green City, Missouri on cattle auction day I highly recommend stopping for breakfast.  The biscuits and gravy were the best I have had in a long time!  After breakfast we slipped into the auction room to watch for a few minutes.  We weren't sneaky enough; before too long we heard a hardy hello from the auctioneer to "the fine crew with [my uncle]"   I guess it's kinda hard for us to slip in unnoticed.  I don't know why.  There were plenty of other trailers in the parking lot. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Our Midwest Trip, Part 1: Getting Somewhere

Remember that family reunion where we naively tried to take our aluminum tent two years ago?  Well, it's a bi-annual reunion.  This year, the reunion was near Hot Springs, AR the second weekend in July.  We planned to go for a long weekend.  Sometimes things just don't go as planned.  Instead of a long weekend, we spent three terrific weeks in the Midwest!

On our first travel day we breezed through Birmingham (breathing a sigh of relief ) and headed toward Memphis.  Much of the day was rainy and some portions of the day were downright treacherous.  The rain let up just enough for us to spot "Tupelo" on a road sign.  Aaaaahhh!  Tupelo, Mississippi.  Birthplace of Elvis.  We were smitten when we stopped on our way back from Texas last October.  I was ready for a break from driving and I knew just the place to refill my coffee cup, Cafe 212. (Or maybe getting my coffee refilled was just an excuse to visit the clothing and all things wonderful boutique, The Main Attraction.)  I parallel parked the trailer on Main, next to Tupelo Hardware.

We frequent hardware stores in small town Georgia almost every time we camp someplace new. Do people who work at hardware stores read from a script?   Religiously, we are greeted with a "Can I help you?" to the tune of  "You're not local.  What do you need?"   Tupelo was no exception.  We rattled off our usual list of hard-to-finds.  Then heard  "We used to have that.  Yup.  Used to have that, too."  A little disappointed they didn't have our metal window screen corners, if unsurprised, we wandered around ogling all the Radio Flyer toys and White Mountain ice cream makers.

Finished at the hardware store, we left at the same time as some other "out of town-ers" who gushed about our Airstream earlier when we were walking into the hardware store together.  We offered them a tour (as much of a tour as one can give when the table and everything else is strapped down.)  Soon after, two people from the hardware store sheepishly peeked into the doorway and asked for a tour, too.  We were happy to oblige.

In our trailer, one of hardware folks told us that Tupelo Hardware was the very place where Elvis Presley got his first guitar.  He came in with his mother and asked her to buy him a gun.  They compromised and she bought him a guitar for $7 instead.  I'll be darned!  See what cool things we learn just by giving trailer tours!

We made it to Little Rock long after dark.  I might have stopped sooner but I erroneously kept thinking that our "sleepy little bit" in the back seat would fall asleep if I would just keep driving.  It was getting close to midnight and she still wasn't sleeping.  (She's too much like me, afraid she might miss something.)  Not long after Little Rock we found a quiet place to stop for the night.

After a short hour and a half drive in the morning we arrived at our Lake Ouachita campground, where we were reminded that this "camping in a trailer" thing is something we don't have all figured out yet.  First of all, it was kind of an ordeal to get parked in our spot.  We followed the one-way road to our site (picked at random several months ago) and found that we had to make a three point turn  (to turn completely around) in order to back into the site.  Weird. We got the trailer in just the right spot, turned the kids loose, unhitched, and started setting up. Ahh!  At last!  We're here.  The weather is perfect.  There's a nice view of the lake.  I finally got around to hooking up the fresh water...except... um... Where is the spigot?  Hmm. Oh, look.  Our neighbors don't have a spigot either. 

I will be the first to admit that our camping experiences thus far have mostly been limited to state parks.  Campsites with power and but no water are a new one to me.  Lesson learned.  We'll be checking the power and water first from now on.  We hitched up again, drove to a "freshwater filling station" near the dump station then came back and did the whole set-up again.  (Boy!  It's a good thing we got our water pump and inlet installed before we left!)

We're here!  It's reunion time!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Summary

Our summer is wrapping up here in Georgia.  Well, that doesn't seem entirely accurate.  What I meant to say is that summer vacation for the school kids is almost over.  Now that "summer is over" (don't tell that to the weatherman) I'll take the opportunity to tell you what we've been doing, starting with Memorial Day weekend:

Indian Springs State Park, in Georgia, claims to be oldest state park in the country.  It is famous for healing spring water (so sulferous you can smell it.   We weren't brave enough to try it.  Not even with a spoonful of sugar.)

It was 100 degrees; That's too hot for Memorial Day weekend, even for Georgia.  We decided to beat the heat by sitting around in our underwear in the air conditioning.  Ok, not really.  We found some shade at the nearby Jarrell Plantation, a Georgia State Historic Site.

This was the 1847 home of the Jarrells, family of nine.  
Sherman razed all but the house during the Civil War.  The family rebuilt.

This kitchen was added in 1880.  We thought it particularly interesting that the kitchen was attached to the house.  Most houses we have seen from this era have a detached kitchen because they burned so frequently.  When they built this kitchen they still had fire in mind.  If it caught fire you were supposed to shove it off of its stone foundation, AWAY from the house.

I'm not sure why every school kid in America remembers that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.   Elementary school history teachers should be proud. 

It was nice to finally see the actual invention to go with the name.

The cotton gin as well as a saw mill, grist mill, wheat separator, and cane press is powered by a central steam engine.  They still operate this steam engine a few times every year.  (Might have to come back to see that!)

 On our way back from the Jarrell Plantation we stopped in Juliette, GA for some grub at the Whistle Stop Cafe (set for the 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes.) 

Juliette has probably has the best people watching in middle Georgia... but don't stop to eat here if you're in a hurry.

One last picture from our Memorial Day weekend:

This sink is full of dirty dishes.  I washed them with the greatest of ease.  All I had to do to get hot water was to rotate the handle on the left.  Hot water magically dispensed from the faucet.  It's the little things!  Hot water from the faucet!

By the way, did you notice the new faucet?  Changing out this faucet was the subject of much debate. It has been so important to us to keep everything as original as possible. A little experience washing dishes in this sink (warming the water outside on a camp stove, of course) made me change my mind about the original faucet. It was nearly impossible to wash or fill large pots because I couldn't get them under the faucet.  I was delighted to find this little all-metal, arching, spray-nozzle faucet in just the right size. 
Father's Day Weekend

Our neighbors talked us into going to the lake with them for Father's Day weekend at the last minute.

While we were at Lake Lanier we also got to see some old (wait, that doesn't sound right) longtime friends.  They treated us to a geocaching boat ride. We retrieved three geocaches from one island!  What a thrill for us!  Our boat captain spied one of the caches first.  (Think we'll hook them on a new hobby?)

We broke from the group for a few hours to check out nearby Sawnee Mountain Preserve.  The trail map said the loop hike was "Easy-Strenuous." What could that mean?  We soon found out.  It meant if you went clockwise around the loop the trail was strenuous.  If you went counterclockwise around the loop it was easy.  Guess which way we went.  Oh well, at the top we were rewarded with for our efforts:

The kids bravely tried out these sacred ancient "Indian Seats," what a view!

On the edge, in more ways than one.

After our hike we headed back to camp. It was too hot for a campfire.

 We had one down on the beach anyway.  
It was lovely way to end the weekend.