Thursday, August 20, 2015

The End of Our Journey, Day 29

We decided at the last minute to make Oklahoma the final state on our trip. We made plans to meet up with G's dad and step mom for breakfast. When we got there, they surprised us with lots of cousins, aunts and uncles! It was so nice to visit with them all. A great way to end the trip!

As you can see, we were very happy to be back in Texas!

There were  lot of ups and downs on our journey. We ran fast and hard to see so much in a short time. Over all, the kids handled it very well. I never heard a single person say they wanted to go home. There were lots of sibling fights and even a few between mom and dad. We were very fortunate that G remained in good health for the duration of the trip. I know he pushed himself to the max. I would always tell him we don't have to do it all, and he would say, yes, yes we do. So we did. There were only a couple of things we had to omit because of time constraints, and only one thing we could not do for fear of it physically affecting G. It was amazing and we are incredibly fortunate to have been able to take this trip.
 Just because I know many of you are wondering, we paid for this ourselves. Back in the fall, there were fundraisers to help us with G's medical bills and keep us going before his disability kicked in. That was completely incredible, and saved us in many ways. That money went to medical bills and kept us afloat. It also ran out quickly. I don't want anyone to assume that money was spent for this trip because it wasn't. There was one couple, who heard about our trip from G's Aunt Jo. They generously donated $500 towards our trip. I won't give their names, because we don't know them, and I'm not sure if they would like that. But, I do want to acknowledge, and thank them for their generosity. We were not looking or asking for any financial help, it was something he said they wanted to do and we were very touched by it. 

I thought it would be fun to share some facts about the trip.

We visited a total of 38 states on our journey. Some, like California, we stayed for a few days. Some, we just drove through. Then there were a couple, like Utah, that we only stood in for a couple of minutes.

We spent the night in 25 hotels/motels. Some great, some good, and a couple that were terrible. Reading reviews helps, but they are not always reliable. Our hotel in NYC looked absolutely nothing like the photos online and smelled like a boys high school locker room. You could see it as part of the grand adventure, I guess. A big gamble for sure!

Two nights were spent with a relative.

Two oceans. 

We visited 4 national parks.

There were countless state parks.

We saw four national monuments.

Nine national memorials were visited.

We passed through 11 mountain ranges. 

We stopped for gas about 48 times. Small car, small gas tank.

One oil change. 

About 11,000 miles driven in our brand new car. 

One of my favorites, zero car troubles!

We ate about 85 meals on our adventure. 

One home cooked meal was enjoyed in New Jersey.

We saw four volcanoes! One, obviously was Yellowstone, another was Mount St. Helens in Washington. I think I forgot to blog about that one. Mount Rainier in Seattle and Mount Hood in Oregon.

We visited four amusement parks.

One shopping mall.

Countless museums and gift shops.

Many bus rides. Two subway rides. Four ferry rides. Four Uber rides. Countless hours in the car.

We visited family and friends ten times, sharing a meal every time.

Here is out magnet collection.

Our bumper sticker collection.

It is our hope that the kids will remember this trip for the rest of their lives. I know we will all have different moments in our minds and hearts forever. People ask us each what we enjoyed best. That is a difficult question for all of us to answer. We saw and did more in one month than some people do in their entire lives. I think we are all still trying to process it. We realize now that every day is special. Every day is a gift and every day that you wake up is a good one. Every day could be your last. That is why we jumped at the chance to take this trip. I am so endlessly happy that G had this time with the kids and I got to be there for it. That we all had this time together. Good times. Wonderful times. 

I will say, it's good to be home.

Visiting the King's Mansion for Day 28

Waking up in Memphis on our 28th day of vacation, this was the view from our hotel. Not bad.

We were very near the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically killed.

We stopped by very early in the morining for some photos.

Such a tragic loss for our country.

Our next stop for this busy day was Graceland!

Such a cool place. It is crazy how they have kept it in such pristine condition all these years.

The only bedroom you get to see on the tour belonged to his mother.

Of course, they don't allow anyone upstairs.

If you know much about Elvis, you know he loved television. I believe he had at least one in every room.

Noah was impressed by all the mirrors. G wasn't particularly thrilled about visiting Graceland. After we left, he admitted he enjoyed it a lot more than he thought he would.

G has also decided that he needs his very own jungle room at our house. Complete with waterfall, and green shag carpet wall to wall, including the ceiling. I told him I would work on it.

I thought it was very interesting that Elvis only ever accepted one award in person. He had so many!

We also stopped to see Sun Studio. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash all recorded there!

After leaving Memphis, we crossed over into Arkansas.

We then made our way to Missouri.

Our final destination for the day was Fantastic Caverns in Springfield.

We had discussed visiting some caverns in Texas back in the spring, but decided against it because of all the walking involved. We didn't think it would be something that G could do easily. Then he remembered hearing about Fantastic Caverns, and we decided to add it to our trip before heading home. It is the only cavern that you can drive through on this continent. 

Jack especially enjoyed it. I'd say it was right up there with the ferry ride we took to Seattle. He was grinning from ear to ear the entire time and could barely contain himself. I would highly recommend it if you are ever in the area.

Just before we got to Oklahoma, we took a little detour, just far enough to stop in Kansas. One more state added to the list! We drove in, took this photo and turned around. Technically it counts, right?

Here we not long after in Oklahoma, where we stayed the night.

Another great day together. We were very happy to be getting closer to home!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Nashville, Tennessee for Day 27

We made it to Tennessee pretty early on our 27th day. I was super excited because I had been looking forward to this day since we planned the trip. 

As soon as I knew we were going to Tennessee, I told G we had to go to Craft South! It is a new shop owned by one of my favorite fabric designers, Anna Maria Horner. It was so difficult to decide what to buy. I planned to spend a little money, but couldn't go crazy. I was telling the young woman who was working in the shop how excited I was to be there, and how far we had traveled. When I told her we were from Texas, she said she was from Carrollton, where I grew up. Crazy! Naturally, G started singing, It's a Small World, while listening to our conversation. 

We spent a little time walking around Downtown Nashville. Stopped by the Ryman Auditorium, which used to be the Grand Ole Opry House.

Romy recognized this street as soon as she saw it. It is in a scene from Coal Miner's Daughter. She and I watched the movie earlier this year and she enjoyed it more than I thought she would. More on that later!

From what we saw, the drinking and partying starts early in Nashville. Like, 10am early!

Once we left downtown, we wanted to visit the Parthenon. We were all very impressed by the Parthenon and it's history. It is a full scale model of the original, built in 1897, for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.

This statue of Athena inside is very impressive. She is quite large and that gold is real.

We found this stained glass of Alabama in a shop we went into. I just really want to know the story behind this. There were two other sections, with the other band members on them. I mean, I like Alabama. I had a favorite 8track with one of their albums when I was like 10. Seriously though, Alabama on stained glass?

We had no other plans for the rest of the day, other than to travel to our next hotel for the night. On the way I started seeing these billboards. Billboards that told me we should visit the home of Loretta Lynn! G was cool with it, so we did! G and Noah were not interested in taking the tour, so Romy, Jack, and I did it without them. Romy was pretty into it. Her home looks exactly as it did in the early 80's. We were not allowed to take any photos inside the house, but if you have ever seen Coal Miner's Daughter, it looks just like it did in the movie, because scenes from the movie were filmed there. Fun fact- Sissy Spacek spent a year with Loretta Lynn, even gong on tour with her, before portraying Loretta in the movie. It earned her an Oscar.