Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Trek Out West- Day 3

Crazy, Courageous or Both - Day 3!

     Wednesday was day 3, from Amarillo Texas to Williams Arizona. We had a bit more time to stop at sights, and more interesting places to see! After a decent breakfast at the creepy hotel (the Taco Bell in 15 feet from our room door didn’t serve breakfast :( ), we set off west again. Caitie slept well in her suitcase-bed by the way! Our first stop was Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo (exit 60 off Interstate 40... you can see it from the highway on Route 66) The story is- a billionaire named Stanley Marsh wanted to mess with the minds of the locals, and had the 10 Cadillacs brought in and buried nose down, so show off the tail fins. So, as tourists, we park along the side of the road, and walk into the field. There are cans of spray paint everywhere, so no need to buy your own to bring. We found a few colors and the kids went crazy with their graffiti. There was so much paint on the cars over the years, it was deep enough to carve into. We left our marks, took some pictures and set off again.

     Hubby has a new app from Wikipedia on his phone that tells him interesting things in the areas 
around you. That found us a few cool towns along the way. Historic Route 66 follows along Interstate 40, so in Adrian, Texas we pull off and find the Midpoint Café. As the name says, it is the midpoint between the Chicago and Los Angeles along Route 66…1139 miles both ways. There was a great little souvenir shop there, and some wonderful homemade pie! We got a few more state magnets to add to our map at home. The café has changed hands over the years, but is currently owned by a Tennessee native!

     Side note… wherever you are out west, always know how much gas you have! There are many areas that do not have working gas stations for miles! We are Almost speaking from experience here!

     After we crossed into New Mexico, the ground gets much more…. Brown…. Smaller plants… much less of the green we are used to. Oh and a speed limit of 75! Nothing personal New Mexico, but we were just passing through!

    Arizona had a big spot we were looking forward to- The Petrified Forest! Not long after crossing the state line is this National Park in the middle of the Painted Desert. Quick stop at the visitor center for the stamp in our National Park Passport book, then off we go. It is a drive through park, with several beautiful stops along the road. The colors are exquisite! The reds layered with the white rock, green desert plants, against the clean clear blue sky was just Awesome! Truly a reflection of God’s Love for us to provide such beauty for us to enjoy! The petrified forest stops were fun with walkways through piles of stumps… doesn’t that sound exciting! They are stone now, probably turned that way from the heavy heat bearing down on us! Yes, a dry heat, but still HEAT!! Hubby decided to go for a jog around the path, quickly realizing the heat and elevation are tough competitors to mental and physical will.  

     Then, it rained! Not sure, but I don’t think that happens a whole lot out here! They sky was beautiful with the passing storms. The flat terrain lets us see the clouds passing and the rain bands falling for miles away, and then the rainbows shining through! Just past Flagstaff, we spent the night in Williams, Arizona at Ramada Inn (much less creepy!)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 3- We Saw the Queen! And Other Famous London Attractions

    After a good nights sleep, we were up early to a breakfast of cereal, yogurt and assorted pastries and off again to see more sites of London.  Who took a quick bus tour to see Tower Bridge (while standing on London Bridge)

then we were in for a special treat! It was a day for Trouping of the Colours. This is a celebration of the Queen's birthday. She and the rest of the Royal family come out of Buckingham Palace in a parade. There were horses, soldiers and carriages. Our tour guide was on top of things and got us a great spot. We also experienced changing of the guards, saw Henry VIII's home, the London Eye, Big Ben and visited Westminster Abbey.

    Lunch.....Clay decided he wanted to try different things, we stepped inside a little deli called EAT and he chose a Peking duck wrap. Neither one of us liked it so we ate a bag of kettle cooked chips! We had free time until the evening so we trekked off to the Natural History Museum. This place was amazing and we didn't have near enough time to see it all. Clay is really into dinosaurs so that is the area we concentrated on.

All museums in London have free admission.

    It was soon time to meet up with the others. We were proud that we were learning to maneuver the Underground all by ourselves! We caught up with everyone else and went on an evening tour of Jack the Ripper history.

    On our way to supper, we got to walk through the area where Harry Potter's Diagon Alley was filmed! For supper we dined at Fuller's Ale and Pie House. The meal was authentic fish and chips with smashed peas and chocolate cake with cream for dessert. The fish and chips, as well as the cake, were great but I was not a fan of  the peas.

    We were treated to a short ride on double decker bus and got to see another Harry Potter scene spot, Platform 9 3/4.

Pretty neat, even if you're not a fan. After that, we had that oh so long trek back to the hotel and finally got to sleep around 2 AM.
  Stay tuned for the next article as we head off to Paris!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Trek Out West

 Crazy? Courageous? Both!
Summer Trek West 2014   
    2000 miles, 31 hours, 3 kids, one infant, and an old fashioned Road Atlas- What a way to spend 4 days! And that is just the beginning...
     Our journey stated in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, and today we end this leg of the journey in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas is a city I never really wanted to visit, but we planned to visit the Grand Canyon and Vegas... well, it is just a logical place to say!
Tuesday we left and spent the night in Memphis at the Fairfield Inn in Olive Branch Mississippi. Those 4 hours are going to make the next 3 days of travel easier.

     Wednesday, we traveled through 5 states going 725 miles. Traveling with kids is possible! We had puzzle books, magazines, movies, tablets, and an occasional stop at the park. The only thing we are lacking is a soundproof glass divider behind our front seats! Not many tourist spots on the first long day, just a small hamburger picnic in Conway Arkansas. The Oklahoma countryside gave the kids their first sight of the modern day Windmill! The wind turbines give an interesting contrast to the fields and houses the share the land with. Rows and rows of the giant slender structures with their airplane wing sized blades are astounding! Trying to explain how the moving blades generate energy, and how that energy is stored and transmitted was not very astounding, but enough to satisfy an 11 and 9 year old.
     As we crossed into Texas, the terrain got a bit more arid, the plants smaller, the foliage less like the green we know from Tennessee. Rolling fields of cattle farms, the irrigation systems that will always fascinate me, old water towers ready to topple with a good stiff wind, all parts of American that just aren't' the same from 35,000 feet up in the air! As we were almost finished up with our day, in the distance we see a row of lights, like a factory. Pantex-  America's only nuclear weapon assembly and disassembly facility. That was thoroughly impressive to our son! Had to get a picture of that for him to show off to his friends. This started a conversation on how far away from an atomic blast would he have to be in order to be ok!

     The hotel that night was on the Heebie-geebie side! I haven't been around many construction workers, but I think I recognized the cat-call I received while unpacking the van out front. Sure, this 40 year old Mom of 4 is really into that!?!  I'm not fan of outside entrance hotel rooms, especially when the walkway becomes a gathering place for Really Loud and apparently Heated conversations at midnight. Our 1 year old had the experience of sleeping in a suitcase, medium sized! We were told the hotel's portable crib was stolen by another guest. After another free hotel breakfast, we are revved up and ready to go!  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 2: London Sites

     Phew, lawzy! After only a few catnaps on the plane, we were worn out. Our group was meeting up with another tour group in the airport before heading to the hotel. Their flight was delayed...2 hours or so! A few of us tried to catch a few Zzzz's in the airport while we waited. When the other crew from Tennessee arrived, we had enough time for a bus ride (after cramming all of our luggage in a tiny bus) to our hotel (Comfort Inn Hayes & Harlington), find our rooms and get the tour started. We were met at the hotel by our tour guide, Anja Henckel. (Don't forget we are on a tour sponsored by EF Tours). 
    We were to head to town and meet with the other 3 groups that would join us for the duration of the tour. There would be a total of 50 students and adults touring together, from Tennessee, Illinois, Oklahoma and California.
    Oh the walk! Not sure how many miles we had to walk to the train station from our hotel but it felt like 50 after going with no sleep this long.  We boarded a train that would take us to the London Underground. We had to learn the rules of the Underground when traveling as a group. Remember where you are supposed to get off, get on/off quickly because it doesn't wait for you, if you miss your stop- get off at the next stop and someone (knowledgable of the Underground) from the group will come get you, if you miss getting on with everyone else- just grab the next one and get off at your stop. Kind of nerve racking at first but we finally got the hang of it.
    Off of the Underground and up the stairs.... OOOOOO, AAAHHHH- Tafalgar Square!

  We were given time to go find lunch, exchange money and roam around before I meeting up with the other groups for a small walking tour and supper. Clay and I ventured out on our own. We exchanged a little money, roamed the streets of London and stopped at a few iconic spots for photos. We visited the Museum of Art and the Museum of Photography and picked up a couple of souvenirs, as well. We didn't eat lunch but grabbed a Mars bar ice cream and some free wi-fi at a McDonalds.

       Anja filled us in on the history of Trafalgar Square before we started the walk. We strolled through the famous Covent Garden, past Rules, London's oldest restaurant and through London's Chinatown. We got to our restaurant, Bistro 1 and were treated to pan fried chicken with gravy and potatoes. 


   One more stop . Can you name it? 

Remember that walk we had from our hotel to the train to the Underground this morning? Yeah, now we have to reverse it! At least we could walk off the banoffee pie. Finally, we made it back to our hotel. After 44 hours of no sleep, I was ready to hit the bed. I think we all were. Next, more London! Do we get to see the Queen?