Monday, 26 May 2014

Day 6

After breakfast and packing out of the hotel we let the children run at a park for a few minutes before heading out to my cousin-in-law's parents' house. The cousin and wife weren't there, but their two girls were waiting for us. Their grandma was baking a coffee cake, and kindly entertained Bob and I while the children went exploring outside. After we all had cake and lemonade we took the girls into town.

We went out to Mansfield to the Laura Ingalls Wilder house, which was nice, but not as "magical" as I had once imagined it would be. The children enjoyed seeing items that were mentioned in the books (which the older ones have read), and playing outside with their cousins.

Then back to Ava where we grabbed a burger at McDonald's and then went to the drugstore for ice cream. This place ought to be famous, if it's not. They sell ice cream cones at 5 cents per scoop, in a dozen flavors, with a smile. After the dessert we took the cousins back home, and headed home ourselves. It was about 2 1/2 hours from there, driving through Branson.

We pulled into Huntsville at 6pm, and my allergies immediately flared up. Supper at Pizza Hut and then home to air out the house and go to our very own beds.
 Children play at Wilder house.
 Wilder's retirement home, built by Rose after she sold her first book.
The rock house wasn't open when we got there, so I got a few pictures through the windows.

Day 5

Sorry for leaving us suspended in time and space...

This was kind of a boring day, but nice. We went to downtown Metropolis to see the giant Superman statue and the Superman museum store (we didn't pay to go into the museum). Then across a bit of Illinois and across the Ohio and Mississippi rivers into Missouri.

In Southeastern Mo we ate at a Chinese buffet for lunch, and it was good! Each dish had its own flavor! Sorry for getting excited, but the Chinese places here are all just kind of blah.

(I'm working without my notes, as they are in the other room and it hurts to walk)

 We stopped at another small town where the very first Stars and Stripes newspaper was printed (during the Civil War). They had a nice museum there with lots more stuff than I'd expected. Also in town was a city park with playground, frisbee golf, and a few re-located log cabins.

Then on to Ava, where we stayed at yet another Super 8. Those things are everywhere!
 Bridge over Ohio River.
 Girls at the park with covered bridge and log cabin.
All 8 on the playground. Daniel loved the big slide and was up and down it the whole time.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Day 4

I don't mean to lose interest or details, but I am starting another trip today (just me, Daniel, and the girls this time).

Friday we packed up, had another yucky breakfast, and went to Big Bone Lick State Park, not far from our hotel, but the stupid map on the hotel computer told us to go way around through town instead of straight over toward the park. Anyway, they have a 4G signal in town, so I was able to figure out how to get back on track with just a 15 minute detour.

The park was nice enough, and we saw the bison herd from a distance and some fossils. There were statues outside, and a ranger giving a talk to a homeschool group about hunting methods (we were told by the shop keeper that he was out calling the bison, but she was wrong). The children weren't terribly interested, Bob's knee hurt, and it was getting warm, so we didn't stay too long.

We went south toward Lexington, and then west toward Peducah. We did take a side trip to Lincoln's birthplace, but because of poor signage we missed the "boyhood home" that was on the way. Just as well though, because the main park closed at 4:45 and we just made it at 4. Got some exercise, learned a little, and back in the car.

We had supper at Hardee's, which had a $1 menu and made lots of fries for the "large" size. Quite a change from the ones around here. Made it to our hotel in Metropolis, Illinois at 8pm. I picked this one on purpose because it has an indoor pool, and the children have been wild to swim since the trip started. On unloading the van we noticed the boys had been into things we told them to leave alone, and Bob was inclined to forego the swimming, but I convinced him otherwise. We had the pool to ourselves, and stayed about 1 1/2 hours. Daniel got in for a few minutes, but then stayed out, just reaching over to splash in the water.

We had adjoining rooms, despite having just booked that morning, so that was nice. Bob and I started out in bed together, but when Daniel woke up at 1:30 I was rocking him back to sleep when Riah got up and used the bathroom. I heard him was his hands, but never saw him get back in his bed (I was in the boys' room at that time). Once I got Daniel back to sleep I used my phone as a light and went looking. Riah had climbed into my bed! So I slept in his spot next to Cedwryck. As soon as I sat down on the bed I could feel a difference. Turns out that 3 of our 4 beds were dreamy soft, and the one that Bob and I got stuck with was hard and spring-ful. Always check the beds! Anyway, I got good rest after that and Bob woke up tired and sore.

Also, the one hotel with a pool was also the one without a laundry room. Figure that. I squeezed the swim clothes out as best I could and let them drip overnight, but they were still pretty wet in the morning.

pictures day 4

 I include this to show off my camera. No flash inside, so I set to auto, no flash. It took this at f4.8_1/30sec_ISO2500.
 All the people at the Lincoln memorial.
Ella relaxes at the Sinking Spring.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

day 3

This is the day that I took the most notes on, and the main aim of our trip. But it is easily summed up.
Having complained about the hotel already, I will just say that the breakfast was sad, and the woman at the front desk, who identified herself as the assistant manager, was the one I'd yelled at out the window earlier. Staff made us wait while they took the elevator up.

We went to the Creation Museum about 10, and it was bigger and nicer than I expected. We left for lunch (Wendy's) and then came back to see the rest of it, as well as a couple of films and a live show. After the show there was a mini book store open to show attendants, and we shopped there awhile. Then we borrowed a wheelchair for Bob and went out to see the large gardens and the petting zoo. It was a long, hot walk. When we were done outside we cooled off for a minute in the lobby and then shopped in the main bookstore until closing at 6.

We had supper at the mall, split between Schlotzky's, Chinese, Japanese, and McDonald's. We had trouble with the interstate again (same deal with the on-ramps going north as going south), but made it back to the hotel in time to watch the video we'd bought and do some packing and planning for the next day.

This night I put my foot down and Ella slept on the futon on the floor, Taryn and Naysha in one bed, and Daniel and I in the other. That worked out much better, and I didn't even hear the airplanes take off, even though the windows are just a single pane of glass thick.

day 3 pictures

 The entry way of Creation Museum
 I like the expressions of wonder.
In the garden/

Day 2

I forgot to mention on yesterday's post that Daniel was hyper after being in the car all day and took full advantage of our dining in a private room. He kept running back and forth and yelling, and we let him because no one else was in there. He also enjoyed exploring our hotel room, setting the lock on the safe, and flipping all the light switches he could reach.

Anyway, Tuesday morning we had a sugar-filled breakfast and started across Illinois. I had looked up a couple of possible stops along the route, and in mentioning them to Bob he noticed that stop one was actually to the west of us (judging by highway exit number) so we should go on to number two. A few miles away from the exit, the children started practicing their singing (they are learning The Star Spangled Banner verse 1 and 4), and Bob and I both forgot the pay attention. When the song was over we realized we'd missed our exit. It was a few miles to the next exit, and we turned around to go back, only (eventually) to realize there wasn't an exit 58! We added about 20 miles to the trip all told, but kept our tempers. At some point I realized that what I'd quickly jotted down was exit 58 all right, but in Indiana, not Illinois! (Same road, but as all Americans know, the numbers start over at the state border).

We got fuel in a nice little farming town. I was tickled that the gas station had diesel at every pump, instead of just the one that is hard to get to, like so many stations do. But the price seemed outrageous, being at least 20 cents higher per gallon than what we were used to. Turns out that was the cheapest we'd see for a few days, as prices climbed to $4.09, with unleaded outstripping diesel in some places.

As we entered Indiana we found the first attraction option on my list, and headed that way, to Harmony. We actually went past the historic town of New Harmony and entered Harmonie State Park, paying the out-of-state entry fee of $7. We stopped at the first picnic area, which was nice and shaded, and had a playground and toilets (but no trash cans). The women's toilet was locked, but the men's wasn't, so we all used that one. We had a picnic of cold pizza, sandwiches, chips, and fruit cups. Some of the children went for a walk and found a small frog, which, when placed on the pavement next to the picnic table, looked very much like the fuzzy things that had fallen from the trees. I wanted Daniel to see it, because he likes frogs in pictures, but he didn't notice it until Riah touched it and it jumped. Being the reasonable child that he is, Daniel then tried to make a fuzzy thing jump by touching it. It was a small thing, but still makes me laugh to remember.

We followed the park signs to see what else was there, and something indicated a river. I drove us around in circles for 15 minutes before we finally got to the boat ramp on the Wabash river. The boys wanted to get out and wade, but Bob spotted a water snake from the car, so we didn't get out. We then left the park and headed into Historic New Harmony.

This was a town founded on idealistic principles (I'm not sure exactly what, yet, but we do want to look further into the history) in 1814. We got a map of the town, and saw some of the major sites, including "The roofless church" a sort of walled garden meant for prayer, and now under the authority of the Episcopal Church. We walked past some original houses to the labyrinth where some of us prayed, some of us tried to figure where the "Oculus" house went, and some of us splashed in the water feature.  Then to the Oculus house, which is an old log cabin that was been transformed into a Camera Obscura, which Bob and I learned about in his photo history class. We all went in, and eventually were able to see the picture projected from the yard onto the walls of the room. It was really neat! I'd also noticed on the town map/guide a place with homemade ice cream, so we then went to check it out (it was rather warm that day). The shop was everything you'd want in an artisan cafe in a small town. The owner even followed us out to the patio tables and chatted with us while we ate our ice cream (or giant suckers, as some of the children preferred that). She told us she was Louisville, KY, and while she hadn't been yet to the Creation Museum, her family had been. She pronounced the city "Low-uh-vull." It took us a minute to figure out what she meant! The shop rents bicycles and golf carts for the tourists, and she let us take a ride around the block on the bicycle for free (see the picture below).

Back on the highway we went over a bridge labeled "Wabash and Erie Canal" at which I said, "Erie Canal? Isn't that in Panama?" and got the song "Low Bridge" stuck in my head until I finally looked it up on YouTube on my phone. Seeing how late it was then, we didn't stop at the other two possibilities, one of which was a Lincoln historic site, but trucked on across Indiana, into Louisville, and then north toward Cincinnati.  Louisville wasn't difficult to navigate, but outside of town there was construction, and bumper-to-bumper traffic for many miles.

As we approached our hotel, we noticed one exit had many eating establishments listed, but there was a highway sign saying that road was under construction and we should "consider alternate routes." So we went on to the next exit, where our hotel was, but there was nothing close by the interstate there. Turned around and headed back to the Interstate going south, the on-ramp somehow bypassed the exit we wanted and entered the highway after the exit left it. Sigh. So we got off the next one, and found a Steak and Shake, where we all ate off the menu for $34. We finally made it to Microtel ofFlorence, Kentucky, and check-in went smoothly, though we were told our rooms would be "sort of across the hall from each other." They were separated by about 4 rooms.

The initial feelings we had upon entering the room were entirely my own fault. When researching this hotel, I saw pictures of a "one bed suite" which clearly showed a bed, kitchenette, and a sofa. I saw pictures of a "two bed suite" which showed 2 beds, a kitchenette, and left some space to the imagination. My imagination filled in a sitting area. But there isn't one. What you see in the picture is all you get. There is a window seat with a sort of futon cushion and a hard pillow meant for sitting against to look out the window or read a book. We were frustrated and disappointed. I called for bedding, and sheets and pillows were promptly brought up (no blankets).

Daniel ran wild again, this time playing mainly with the mini fridge. He pulled out a shelf and carried it around the room asking us if we wanted a "bite." I don't know where he gets his ideas. We settled down for the night with Daniel in between Taryn and Naysha (he was supposed to sleep with me, but wouldn't), and Ella on the window seat. But then Ella got cold (or something) and climbed into my bed. And then Naysha got frumpy and got on the window seat. But about 1 am Naysha fell out of bed, and in the dark and sleepy state she tried to prop up the futon between the window ledge and my bed. I told her that wouldn't work and to sort it out while I used the bathroom. When I came back, Naysha was in my bed and Ella was laying sideways across the place I had been. So I got the futon onto the floor and tried to sleep there.

That room was so noisy! The A/C ran constantly, and finally grated my last nerve so I turned it off. Then I could hear the airplanes at the Cincinnati International Airport.  Then I heard the man upstairs running sprints across his room. Then I heard the cleaning crew going out for a smoke under my window. I did open the window and yell at them, but by then it was too late for sleeping anyway and we are on to the next day.

day 2 pictures

This was actually the cheapest fuel we saw for the next few days.
 A bicycle built for 6.

 Old building and new garden.
Walking the labyrinth (me resting in the background, and Daniel splashing in the water feature).

Monday, 12 May 2014

day 1

Monday we had prepared a breakfast casserole that only had to be baked. This took much longer than we expected, and we had to wait for it, even after getting everything else done. Eventually it was cooked, and most of us didn't like it. We chocked down some and cleaned up, and were ready to go. It was around 9-9:30 when we rolled out.

We'd planned to eat a late picnic lunch at Meramac Springs park, but by the time we reached Springfield we needed a pit stop. We made a last minute decision to pull into Lambert's (home of the throwed rolls), and all used the restrooms and consulted the menu. At $15 and up per entree, it was too pricey, so we got a granola bar out of the back of the van and went on down the road. 

Once we got on I-44, the traffic didn't seem too bad, so when we stopped at the Candy Factory, we let Taryn drive a while. Of course things picked up after that, but she managed to avoid any vehicle damage. The park seemed hours away, and we were all hungry and grumpy by the time we arrived. We parked at the closest green spot, and hopped out for a picnic. We were greeted by swarms of gnats/midges/no-see-ums. We found a shady spot and ate as quickly as possible, while attempting to not open our eyes or mouths. The gnats weren't actively attacking us, but were so solid that we couldn't avoid them. We looked at the waterfall and the fishery, and then drove around to the old iron works. They were quite interesting, but again with the gnats. We used the toilets and quickly left. 

We made it to St. Louis and found the Arch and parking garage without any trouble, then walked along to the Arch. Meeting a local on the path who was unenthusiastic about going up, Taryn decided not to go, so she, the two little boys, and I went through the museum and gift shops while Bob took the others up. The museum had lots of interesting items, but they were arranged randomly, not following a timeline or subject groupings. There were cows and other animals, quotes from MLK, Twain, and Einstein; pictures of Indians and presidents; farm implements and coins; a video about Lewis and Clark. If there was an overall theme I'd guess it was grievance with the US's war policy. One gift shop was supposed to resemble an old Mercantile, but the lights were so dim inside that I couldn't make out what some of the items for sale actually were. Over to the brightly lit gift shop, where they were half-closing the entry way 30 minutes before closing time. I decided not to buy anything. Bob and the others finally made it back down on the last tram, and we went back outside 5 minutes before they locked up.

From there it was only 15 minutes to our hotel, but with construction and one-way streets it took us at least that long to get out of downtown St. Louis. We finally made it across the wrong bridge into Illinois (sympathizing with my buddy Ganieda and her trips into Brisbane), and soon rejoined the main road out to O'Fallon. The hotel was on the exit past all the shopping, and was pretty much the only thing at its location. Bob and I went to check in, and immediately noticed the QUIET.  The rooms were reasonably comfortable and clean.  The water pressure in the showers was amazing. 

There is a single restaurant next door to the hotel, and it appeared reasonably priced so we went for it. Italian. It took at least two hours to get and eat our food - pizza and pasta. It was all tasty, but by the time it came we were almost too tired to be hungry, so a lot of pizza was wasted. We finally made it out and went to bed and bath.

(My apologies to my cousins Kevin and Heather - I told Heather I'd let her know when we went to St. Louis, and I didn't. We were only there for a couple of hours, and it would have been ahrd to predict the time, but I could have tried.)