Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30

Blair says...

I'm tired. I walked at least 5 miles today, after paddling a boat against the Colorado River's rapids. I then proceeded to go swimming. So, yeah. After the rapids, which were actually pretty awesome for being a level two, if you're a beginner I'd recommend it, I was sitting in the hotel room bored out of my skull. Both computers were taken, and I've been on it a lot anyway, so I asked to follow a trail that I'd seen behind the hotel. Dad decided to come too. It led to the downtown bit of Moab, and after that we just kept going to the main street. This is a really earthy, artsy kind of town, I really liked it. What I didn't realize until we were just walking and walking and I saw how far away we were, was that it was about 100 degrees out and we'd walked 3 miles. It took about an hour and a half. After resting in the hotel room for all of 10 minutes, Dad and I (just us two crazies again) went back to the arches park, and decided to do what we'd missed yesterday. It was a .2 mile walk to the first arch, and I was able to walk on top of it. After an adrenaline filled climb, of course, because we're in Utah dammit, nothing is easy. It was a really cool experience though. Then to the next arch, which we thought would be a short walk, as we could see it. We are in the desert. If its even just a half mile trail, you feel it after a little bit. We got some great pictures, then hightailed it back to the van. We came back after picking up a pizza for dinner, and I went swimming with Brooke. I will have a VERY good night's sleep tonight.

June 30

Molly says...
 Today was fun but that we should *in singsong voice* Start at the very begining thats a very good place to start *and if we don't (repeat were star is) this will be more confusing then it has to be *so confusing..................... Anywho the begining is where molly thinks we should start.
 So at 2 AM Molly woke up because she was very cold (because she was on the cot that was right next to the air conditioning that for some reason and she had fallen asleep with wet hair) so she got up, put some socks on and figured she might be warmer in an actual bed. So she inspected both beds and decided that is was less dangerous to wake up her mom than to chance waking up her sister, Blair. So she got into bed with her mom and got warmer very fast and fell asleep.   She was woken up at 6:45 in order to get ready for the white water rapids. The rapids were so much fun. Then when that was over and they went to  2 book stores and neither one of them had the books she wanted. 
  When Molly got back to the hotel, she went on the computer (after swimming) and discovered that there were no Barnes & Noble or Borders for 132 miles. Then she read a little at the pool, then did some online art, and then she typed this. Molly says goodbye.

Tuesday, June 30

Brooke says...
white water rafting was fun. Anybody would like it. It is sort of scary. My favorite part was when I got to jump off the boat and swim near the boat.  I had to wear my life jacket the whole time. There was a scary rapid called the rocky rapid. When a big rapid comes, the boat sort of tips over, and the water splashes on you if you're on the front.  At one point, I got to walk beside of the boat and the mud sucked down my shoe and got stuck in the mud and I almost lost my shoe. But one of the guides found it. (She actually walked out of her shoe and we thought that it was gone because she was wading in the water. But one one of the guides started stomping in the mud, visualize someone stomping on grapes, and he found it!)
The the guide did this thing where we all got on one end of the boat, and our guide, Danny, grabbed the rope that was attached to the front of the boat. He pulled it to the back and we all all leaned to the back and we rocked the boat back and forth and it seemed like we were going to tip the boat over, but we didn't.  It was awesome.
When we were on Rocky Rapid a guy took our picture while we were on the biggest rapid. We really we got wet on that one. We hit a big rapid and I was really scared. I'm glad I went.

Monday, June 29 (Day 10)

        Arches National Park

       We entered the town of Moab, Utah, last night around 9:00 p.m. and had decided on the
way here that we would stay in this inn, La Quinta Inn, for two nights and take a break from driving. At the pool we met a family who started tell us about the fun they had had white water rafting in the Colorado River while they were here, so we decided to stay here long enough to go rafting.
 I called the rafting company and made plans to go rafting tomorrow at 8:15 a.m.  After sleeping in, we spent this morning swimming and reading by the outdoor pool. Jerry got Subway sandwiches for lunch. Then we decided to go to Arches National Park and drive through, because from the map it looked like you could just drive around the park and see the arches.
We first stopped at the visitor's center and watched two films about the formation of the arches. Molly enjoying speaking to an artist who was being featured there. I spoke to one of the rangers and found out that you had to walk a short distance to some of the arches to get the best view. We started driving around the park and the temperature in the van registered at 99 degrees, and realized that we didn't bring any water bottles at all. We took our girls into the
desert without any water! And since we were thinking that we weren't actually walking, we hadn't worn the best walking shoes either.
We walked to the first arch viewpoint and the complaining began. Brooke had hurt her big toe that morning at the pool and the bandage kept coming off. We quickly looked, took a few
pictures and headed back to the air-conditioned van. We drove past a few other arches and then got to the Delicate Arch, which the video at the visitor's center said was only about 6 feet thick at the top of the arch now and probably wouldn't last much longer, so we had to see it. There were two trails to the view of this arch. We took the shorter one, which was only about 1/4 of a mile. After looking at that view, we thought it was beautiful and wondered if we could take the longer trail to the other view of the Delicate Arch. It was hot and we were thirsty, but we thought that we would try it.
Well, it was uphill the entire way, and because of the elevation, we were sucking air by the time we got to the top. On the way up, I believe that my words were something like, 
"This better be flipping gorgeous!" We were blaming each other for whose idea it was to do this. We were complaining that we were hot, tired and thirsty. It was a great time!
Again, we took some pictures, and headed back to the van. Luckily, in the van we did have some gum, so that helped until we got back to the hotel.
We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to the hotel, and got some fresh fruit and drinks. We sat by the pool and enjoyed our snack. We headed to bed as early as we could, because we had to get up early for white water rafting!
Today we learned a couple of valuable lessons: 
1) Always take a water bottle when going out in the desert, even if you think you're only driving,
2) Always wear walking shoes when going into a national park, and
3) Realize that there will never be a total day of rest when you're traveling with Jerry Donald!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday, June 28 (Day 9)

Last night we chose a hotel in Cortez, Colorado, so we were only about 20 minutes away from today's destination, Mesa Verde. I had read about the cliff dwellings a couple of years ago, and since then, had always thought that they would be really neat to see.  When you arrive at the entrance to Mesa Verde, you still have 23 miles to drive up the mountain to get to the actual cliff dwellings. From the road, we could see one major cliff, so wondered if it was where we were driving, but it wasn't.

This is the first major cliff that you see. It's really interesting how some of the rock has fallen away and part of the rock remains. But this first high cliff does not contain any of the cliff dwellings.
We continued driving to the top the mountan
up a road that was very curvy, and the views were breath-taking. When we were at the top of the mountain we were at about 8500 feet. 

First we started at the visitor's center, where we saw lots of Pueblo artifacts and a short film on the cave dwellings. For 3 generations, which was only about 100 years, Native Americans lived in the cliffs, possibly to guard their store of food.  We took a self-guided tour through the Spruce Tree House, and a guided tour through the Cliff Palace dwelling.

You can see how the roof in the back of the dwelling is covered in layers of soot, which indicates that they burned fires in the back of the dwellings. Imagining how smoky the rooms must have been was amazing. The circular rooms in the front are called Kivas. They were thought to have been cerimonial rooms, but current findings are indicating that they were just the room where the family gathered and slept. Why these people left these dwellings, or where they went is unknown. We had a great guide, and we learned a lot. Climbing into and out of the dwellings was not easy, as these dwellings were not meant to be found by others at the time.

Then we drove on to the Four Corners Monument which is owned by the Navajo Nation. The monument is a little platform where people stand in line to get their picture taken where the four states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico meet. One family that we were speaking to (who happened to be from Salisbury, MD) told us that they had heard that the surveying equipment at the time wasn't too good and that the monument is actually in the wrong spot!
But we were glad that we drove there.
This area of the US is really desolate. Then we drove through a reservation, and it is really sad how people were given land where not even grass will grow.

We continued on to our hotel for the night. We had chosen Moab, Utah, because it was a town that looked large enough for a hotel near Arches National Park which is our next destination.

As we drove into Utah, the landscape was beautiful. Here the dirt seems to be a reddish clay. It was beautiful to see the red clay cliffs with the Rocky Mountains in the background.  A few times as we were driving, a little prairie dog would run across the road. They're fast little creatures, but don't seem to be very savvy when it comes to cars. 
We got to our inn around 9:00. This Inn has an outdoor pool, so we swam until after 10:00. 

We ended traveling 265 miles today, and so far we have been in 12 states: Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico (just across the border), Arizona, and Utah!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday, June 27

We started the day heading for Great Sand Dunes which was only 20 minutes from our hotel. Since we had arrived to our hotel after 9:00 the night before, we were slow getting started and didn't head out until around 11:30. The Sand Dunes are really neat. At the base of the Rocky Mountains in this one area,
these sand dunes have formed over the years. Driving there you see flat land, sand dunes, mountain. It's
quite unusual. 
We started a the visitor's center and found that to climb to the top of the dune, which gives you a better view of the entire dune, it's better to start early in the morning so that you can be off of the dune by after
noon when the temperature of the sand can reach 140 degrees. The park ranger said that although it was on the late side, we could try it if we wanted. So we decided to try it since it was already noon, but only
70 degrees. We headed to the van and put on toed-hoes (not sandals), covered ourselves in sunscreen, grabbed our water bottles and headed out.
We didn't know where we were going, but took a trail out of the back of the visitor's center that looked like it
went to the base of the dune. After walking about 1/2 mile we ended up in the camping area! The mosquitoes were biting, we couldn't figure out where
to go, so we gave up!
We headed back to the visitor center and watched a 2o minute video on the dunes and how they were formed.
Then we headed to Zapata Water Falls which is also part of this national park. We turned onto the road that leads to the falls, and it was a terrible. It was like driving on a washboard. We didn't know how far
we would have to drive on this road, we saw someone's hubcap on the side of the road, so we gave up on this
too! Our memory of this national park is of bugs and bumps! But it was neat to see the dune formation at
the base of the mountain.
We headed back to Alamosa on Route 160 to have lunch. We stopped at a local place called 
the Fresh Tortilla Company where the tortillas were made fresh every morning. They call their burritos the 
"big ass
burritos" because they do pile on the toppings of your choice. This phrase was used on the sign on the door and on the menu, and it really cracked Brooke up.
She wanted to know if she could say that phrase just for the day, so I told she could while we were there. I'm not sure how many times she fit that phrase into
our conversation! Covering her mouth and laughing
each time. 

Then we continued
on Route 160 to Cortez. We expected to drive through,but ended up stopping alone the side of 
the road quite a few times
because the views were awesome.
When we were at the top of the Sane Juan Mountain, which is
over 10,000 feet, we stopped because there was a road sign that we were at the Continental Divide. From there we could walk to the base of the mountain where
a little snow was still on the ground. So we had a snowball
fight and the girls made a snowman out of 3  snowballs.
As we continued down the mountain we saw beautiful views and stopped at a waterfall where chipmunks ate out of the girls hands! There were so many chipmunks
running around. A woman gave the girls some trailmix and told them to stay very still and the chipmunks would eat out of their hands!
The little chipmunks would stuff their faces until their checks would bulge out. One ate all of the food on Blair's hand and then seemed to sit there and beg her for more! The girls loved it.
We arrived at our hotel around 8:00. We went to the pool and Jerry went to the store for ice cream, salad, and strawberries. The diner of champions! 
We ended up traveling 266 miles today.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

comments from Blair, Molly, and Brooke

Brooke says...
today was great! This is what happened in my words. We woke up today around 11:00 and we went to the Great Sand dunes. We didn't go up because Molly's tummy didn't feel good . It was 1 hour to get to the top and back again. My favorite part of the day was when this lady gave me some nuts and a chipmunk ate right out of my hand. When the chipmunk's mouth was really full, the chipmunks look so cute. It looked like their mouths were full of air and its cheeks were big. We saw so many waterfalls, and that is what I say.

Molly says... Hey Babes, 
           We have done SO much over the last week. My favorite parts have been Bishop Castle, Hillbilly Hot dogs, Mammoth Cave, Little Grill Collectives, the sand dunes, and The Great Divide, and this one Welsh Pub in St. Louis (from greatest to least in that order). Anyway, I've read my mom's blog and I don't think you've been getting a real feel from the trip. Sure she's done a great job but everythings so amazing. I think everyone should be able to take a trip like this eventually, though you might consider going with a friend instead of family. I have ! JK (just kidding). Anyway, Bishop's Castle was amazing! Dad, Blair and I (mom and Brooke were too scared :P) went to the top, and it was like some sort of fishnet iron and at the top it was shaking and wobbling. There were a lot of windows and it was so windy, that I (who am completely not scared of heights) got so scared, I sat down and just scooted down the steps one at a time because there was no railing on the upper half. All in all it as a lot of fun, and if you ever go out west you definitely have to  go there (we even bought a souvenir magnet). So that's what I thought about that. Anywho, I've been reading a lot and listening to books on c.d. So far I've finished Sabrial, Liriel, and Abhorsen, (all one series), the Skulduggery Pleasant series, The shadow Thieves (have not finished series), and now I'm on the Legend of Drizzet series. Good bye all of you Marylanders, (and even those who are not). Bye.

Blair says... 
Um. Hi. Am I just talking about the trip on here or what? OK, I'll
give you some highlights. Colorado might be my favorite state on 
thistrip so far. The Rockies are amazing, the landscapes are seriously straight
out of Lord Of The Rings. And no hobbits, so that's a plus. The valleys
and mountains are really beautiful, and the waterfall we saw today
was, to use an odd phrase I've heard lately, sick. (apparently this means 
"cool". I'm pretty sure its a word used by adults to try and relate. I'm
the only one imagining a table with a bunch of old guys in their toupees
saying, "So what is *hip* and *cool* with the *youth* today?" aren't I.) But
anyway, landscapes. Very grand. Feeding the chipmunks was
interesting, I was surprised at how bold they were. 
The most exciting 
part of the trip so far was the rickety aeroride in the storm at the Royal
Bridge, running through hail to get to
a gift shop. Then the crazy staircase at Bishop's Castle that wasn't
at all safe, which is good, because if that castle was up to regulations it
wouldn't have been half as fun. We will now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Friday, June 26

This morning we started our day in La Junta, CO, at 9:30 a.m. and it was already 96 degrees. We were headed for Canon City, CO, to the Royal Canon Bridge. After driving about 20 miles, we were able to see the Rocky Mountains. They truly are beautiful. What was interesting was how peaked they are. Our Appalachian Mountains are much older, and therefore have been worn down over the years by the weather to nice rounded mountain tops which these definitely are not!
The Royal Canon Bridge is a steel bridge that was built to cross the canyon pictured in the top right and bottom right.. Those pictures were taken on the bridge looking down the canyon.  The picture on the lower
left is the bridge we walked across. The wind was blowing, so the bridge was shaking slightly, and Brooke and I were walking quite slowly!

After we walked across the bridge, there was a small settlers museum we looked around. There we saw the worst actors we had ever seen perform a medicine man's short skit. Then we walked back across the bridge and by then, storm clouds had moved in and the wind was really blowing. Brooke and I ran into the visitor's center, while Jerry, Blair and Molly got on a AeroCar to go across the gorge. As soon as they got to the other side, a huge bolt of lightening cracked right over the gorge. Brooke was scared to death, the aerocar closed, and Jerry, Blair and Molly were stuck on the other side of the bridge. So they started walking back a little before it starting raining so hard it was even hailing. So they waited in one of those settler museums until they could catch a tram over to the visitor's center. When the rain calmed down to a drizzle, we went out to ride the "steepest railway in the world" to the bottom of the canyon to the river. But Molly and Blair were wet, the 
storm had dropped the temperature to the 60s, and there was a line to ride the railway, so we decided we'd had enough and we headed out. We actually used the heater in the car for a little while, which was amazing considering we started the day at 96 degrees at 9:30! 
Then we went to Bishop's Castle which was about an hour's drive south of the canyon. We found out about this castle from the restaurant owner in Dodge City. Bishop's Castle is being built by one man, who is an individual. The castle is open to the public and you can walk throughout the castle and in all of the little torrents. You have to goggle Bishops Castle. There is even a youtube video. Words can not really describe it!

Since 1955, Jim Bishop has been getting rock nearby and building this castle by himself one truckload of stones at a time. We climbed through the castle and Jerry, Molly and Blair even went into the circular iron part at the top of the the above picture.  Jerry also went to the top of the front where he said the wind was crazy, but you could see the plains. This is one of the girls favorite spots so far. It really was unique!
Then we drove on. We ended up driving a total of 294 miles before we stopped for the night at Alamosa, CO. Before we got to Alamosa, we drove past Blanca Peak, one of the mountains in the Rockys and the sign said that the elevation was over 14,000! The summit of the mountain was lost in clouds. Incredible!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25

We headed for Dodge City, Kansas this morning. We started at the visitor's center and decided to go to the Boot Hill Museum which is a 1870s street front with lots of history about Dodge City. There is a huge US map in the visitor's center and people put stickpins in the cities that they're from. No one had put a pin in Frederick yet, so Brooke was very excited to do that.
We entered the museum in the hotel entrance which was also a gift store. Then we walked through all of the different stores. We had a sarsaparilla drink from the saloon while listening to pianist, we watched a shoot-out in the front grassy ares where the girls are standing in the picture. Then we decided to dress up in costume and have our picture taken.  The real period style picture may be our Christmas card this year! Of course the girls chose the saloon style!

At the visitor's center, I asked the workers about a local restaurant that would give the feeling of Dodge City, and they told us to go to Casey's, which was a local steakhouse. The local steaks were good, and the owner, Mike, even sat with us for the first half of our meal. Then before we left, he took us into his office and showed us local places to visit and even showed us where they were on the map. He told us how Dodge City is growing and adding casinos, and how half of the town was for it, and half of the town was against it, and how he was involved. It was nice to really talk to a local person. Everywhere we have gone, the people have been very nice.
Then we headed to Colorado. It's been really interesting driving through the prairie and the plains. Jerry's big quote for the day was, "People who say the world is crowded have never been out here!" It cracked me up.
As we were driving Jerry and I would see big white grain elevators and we would guess how far off they where. For the first one, Jerry guessed 6 miles and I guessed 3 miles. It was actually 12 miles away! We got a little better as we went, but it is amazing how far you can see.
We have also seen a lot of windmills. 
Brooke gets a little scared sometimes as we are driving, because you can see where it is raining miles away. She also is missing Duncan. I think part of it is that we are all going to sleep and waking at the same time. So today we stopped at Walmart and got Brooke an eye mask that will block out the light in hopes that she will fall asleep even if we are still reading with the lights on. 
We stopped and got gas today at a little place called, Kinsley, KS. Their claim to fame is that they are midway, USA. So it was neat to think that we were in the middle of the U.S.
Today we traveled 292 miles. We have travelled a total of 1832 miles in 6 days. Now that we are in Colorado, I think that we will be able to not travel so much each day, since there are so many neat things to see. The girls have traveled well, we have seen some neat thing, and we have met some nice people.

Back to Wednesday, June 24

We started the day in
Boonsville, MO, and headed for Truman's Presidential Library in Independence, MO. No one was being punished; Jerry wanted to stop! Actually, we all enjoyed it, and Jerry got souvenirs for his classroom. He did tell the girls that if they weren't well behaved he would take them to Eisenhower's library in KS. Maybe that's why they appeared to enjoy it!
Truman's Library had a few interactive movies that generated some interesting conversations for us, such as civil liberties, election strategies, and what motivates a President to make decisions. Our children do suffer being the children of teachers.
Then we drove into Independence, MO, and using the GPS found a bank, Target, and BestBuy. It felt just like home! I got new cameras for Brooke and me, so now we're back in business.

Then we stopped at our second Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives spot, Grinders in Kansas City, MO. Again, the GPS helped us drive right to the restaurant. The decor was interesting and Brooke liked the bathroom because it had a chandelier and a pink toilet. Jerry and I had their grinders which was really just meatball or sausage subs, but they were really good. Our waitress really didn't know much about the show or what foods were featured, but we figured it out.

Then we headed out of KS around 4:30 p.m. I was afraid that we may hit rush hour, but we didn't have any trouble at all. We drove to our next hotel which was Days Inn in Great Bend, KO. The hotel was really a disappointment. There was no pool, and at first they put us in a smoking room and we had to contact priceline and the owner of the hotel to get moved to a non-smoking room. We met the owner the next day and he was really nice, but the room just seemed old and dirty. I was glad to move on.

We traveled 378 miles today.

Hotel observation: There are never enough plug-ins in hotels. At night we have to charge 2 cameras, camcorder, personal dvd, and four cell phone. So each night, we go around the hotel looking for electrical outlets to get everything plugged in!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 25

We made it to La Junta, CO, to a Holiday Inn Express. We're not in Kansas anymore! I did get a new camera yesterday; one for Brooke also! So tonight I uploaded pictures and added them to earlier posts. In the morning before we leave, I'll try to write about the last two days. It's been nice to hear from some of you. Thanks!! Can you believe Michael Jackson and Farrah died. Poor Farrah. Her news got pushed to the side as soon as the news of Michael hit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 24

Made it to Great Bend, KS. Made a bad choice of hotels after driving over 350 miles today. Can't wait to get to Dodge City tomorrow, look around, and then find a nice hotel. It's amazing how icky a bad hotel can make you feel. No more DaysInn for us. I'm missing you guys. Post a comment, and let me know how things are going, or email me @ bdonald128@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, June 23

We started today on a little slower pace. We slept in a little, ate breakfast, updated emails and blog, and Brooke went swimming. Around 10:00 a.m. we left the hotel in Mt. Vernon, IL,  and the temperature was already 97 degrees
We arrived at the St. Louis Arch around 11:30, and the temperature was already near 100. The first thing that we did was ride to the top of the arch in this tiny little capsule that had room for 5. The capsule was so tiny that it may have been 4 ft. high and 4 ft. across with 5 chairs. I sat down in this thing, realized how small it was and started to leave, thinking I can't travel in this tiny capsule for 4 mins. to the top. Jerry grabbed me by hand and wouldn't let me out the door. And it wasn't actually too bad. The door had two little windows and I could see that stairs were available if we got stuck. At the top of the arch, we looked out the little windows and we could see 30 miles of the Mississippi River on one side and St. Louis on the other. 

While we were getting ready to board the capsule to the top of the Arch, Jerry walked right past Joe Manchin, who is the governor of West Virginia. Jerry stopped and said, "Joe Manchin. I'm from Maryland and my wife is from West Virginia." So Manchin shook our hands and asked if we got to WV often. While I was talking to him, I didn't realize that I was near a step, so I stumbled down the first step, and Manchin grabbed my arm and told me to watch my step. I always make the best impressions! We got a good laugh that 
even the Governor of WV had to tell me to watch my step!

Then at the top of the arch, Brooke and I got our picture taken with him. So yesterday we were 267 feet under ground and today we were 690 feet about ground. 
After the Arch, we went on a cruise on the Mississippi River. It's as brown and muddy as the stories say. The tour guide on the cruise told us that it's not recommended that people eat the catfish from the river because of all of the pollutants in the river, but if you do, you should eat only one pound a week! I would think that you would have to be pretty hungry to fish in the Mississippi.
It was so hot on the cruise that we stayed in the restaurant part of the boat. It was cooler and you could still see the view of both sides of the river.
After the cruise, we walked back into the bottom of the Arch and went through the museum there about travel to the west, and we bought souvenirs.
Then we went to Dressel's Pub in St. Louis. The owner of the pub was the supervisor of the group of students that Jerry was a part of when he went to school in Wales. Jerry didn't get to see him as he only comes in the pub at 11:30 on Saturday nights. But the food was good. They slice and fry fresh potato chips, and they were really tasty.
Then we headed west again. We got stuck in rush hour traffic outside of St. Louis which wasn't good planning on our part. We didn't even think of it. We drove until about 8:00 p.m. and got a hotel in Boonville, MO. We travelled 232 miles today.
The girls are traveling well so far. Blair stays plugged into her iPod listening to music. Molly has been listening to her books on tape, and Brooke talks to us. Yesterday we made a list of all of the states and she is marking the state off as she sees the license plate. That kept her busy for a while. Around 7:00 last night, I gave them all some yarn and they started playing cat's cradle and such for a while. Knitting comes in handy sometimes. Satellite radio is also helping. Last night I searched the Sirius schedule and wrote down some programs that I thought we may enjoy. But so far, we like the adventure, so the van drive is worth it. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monday, June 22

Today we woke up in a hotel at Mammoth Cave Kentucky National Park. We basically only slept in the room, so it didn't take long to getdressed and pack the van. We drove through the parking lot to get to the restaurant and cave tours. The biggest observation that we quickly made about Kentucky was that it was HOT! Maybe it's because our spring at home has been so wet and cool, but the heat and humidity here is unbearable! We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, bought souvenirs at the gift shop and headed toward the place where the bus loads for the cave tour. Here is where I realized that I couldn't find my camera.I searched the van and even called Hillbilly Hotdogs, the last place I remember having used my camera, all to no avail. The girls each had her own camera and Jerry had the video, so I wasn't worried about it not being documented! So we loaded the bus to begin our 4 1/2 hour, 4 mile tour.

The bus ride to the cave entrance was four miles. The temperature outside was near 90, so we were all anxious to get into the 55 degree cave. To enter the cave, you walk down a flight of steep stairs to the begi
nning of the cave. The first part of the cave that we walked thro
ugh had huge rooms. There were no stalagmites or stalatites because the limestone roof of the cave was too waterproof. So walking through the cave is like walking though this huge underground tunnel. After walking one mile, which took about one hour, we arrived at the snowball dining room in the cave. They serve a boxed lunch or snacks, so we got snacks and sat on picnic tables
inside of this cave. 
 Then we continued on our walk and the cave became narrow and the ceiling was really high. As we walked, we would walk into large open rooms again, and then the cave would become really narrow in parts.  It's really hard to explain, but we walked 4 miles in this cave. It's the longest cave in the world, 370 miles of cave. 
During the last 20 minutes of the tour we did see beautiful stalagmites and stalactites because the ceiling of the cave was not as strong, so water had leaked through and they had formed. It wasn't an Wow! experience, but a interesting adventure to see the different features of our country. There are many tours of the cave to choose from, so the tour that we saw showed how big the cave was, but it really wasn't a pretty cave until the last 20 mins. There was a River Styx tour that the girls really wanted to go on so that they could get a t-shirt, but that tour was booked when I made the reservations.
After the tour, we boarded the bus, went back to the van and took off. We snacked on chips, hummus, pretzels, and grapes so that we could drive a little while before we stopped. We drove about 1 1/2 hours and then stopped to eat. Then we drove another 1 1/2 hours, and stopped for the night in Mt. Vernon, IL. The neat thing about this part of our traveling journey is my technological ability. (Brad, don't laugh.)
After we ate, I started looking at the map to see where we might want to spend the night, and I chose Mt. Vernon. Then I used the internet connection on my phone to look up hotels in Mt. Vernon on Priceline. I found a hotel and booked it using my phone. (Wendy, can you believe this!) Then I plugged in the address in the GPS, and we drove right to the hotel. I so impressed myself. Now I'm unstoppable!!! I can go anywhere.
I didn't post anything about the play, Hatfields and McCoys, that we saw Saturday night. TheaterWV is an outside amphitheater in the New River Gorge National park. The play included dancing and singing, but the second part of the play included much drama. In fact, in the end scene of Act I, the Hatfields killed 3 McCoy sons. After the drama of the killing, the lights popped on and an announcement was made that there would be a 15 min. intermission. It was very anti-climatic! The audience actually laughed at the abrubt change. Brooke actually walked out to the concession stand before the last scene in act 1 because we knew what was about to happen. There was a lot of gun shooting which was really loud. We really haven't seen too many dramas, and this told a story of southern history. 

Camera update: Jerry searched the van, and my camera seems to be gone. At least I had only about 10 pictures on it. Then I started using Brooke's camera in the cave, and while we were sitting at lunch, it fell out of my pocket onto the floor and it's not working this morning! So now we need to get Brooke a new camera. I don't think I'm going to replace mine, because I really don't seem to be responsible enough to have my own!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21

I didn't write last night, because we stayed in a hotel in Mammoth Cave National State Park, and it didn't have internet. It wasn't camping, but pretty close. And I lost my camera (it may be in the van somewhere, but who would know.)
We started the day in Beckley, WV. Two miles away from where we stayed was an exhibition coal mine, so we started the day there by taking a 45-minute coal mine tour.  We rode a little open train, and the girls each got a piece of coal. While we were in the mine, the guide who was a retired coal mifner, showed us tools that the coal miners used throughout the years.

Then we drove to the New River Gorge Bridge. People can parachute off the bridge on one day in October. There we walked to an overlook to see the view of the river and the bridge. As we were looking at the bridge, we saw the top of a port-a-potty go by. We couldn't see the truck the potty was on from the overlook viewpoint, only the top of the port-a-potty going across the bridge. It was funny. We walked about 200 steps down to the overlook that looked down on the New River. The view was spectacular.  This was a really fast stop.
Then we drove about two hours west to our first Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives stop. For those of you who don't know, that is a fun show on the Food Network that showcases hometown eateries in the USA. I googled the website and found the address for Hillbilly Hotdogs in Lesage, WV, an eatery on our way that had been featured. We plugged the address into the GPS, and had no idea what we were headed for. It was unbelievable! I'll try to upload pics later, but google Hillbilly Hotdog pics. and there is even a video on youtube. Hillbilly Hotdogs is a shack with two buses connected to it for sitting.  The owners enjoy for people to bring them things, and then they display what is given to them somewhere inside or outside the shack. For example, outside there is a tree filled with hubcaps on the trunk, boots on another, and stuffed animals on another trunk! Then they give you markers to sign your name somewhere. The bus, tables, and walls are covered with signatures. Then the hotdogs! We had a scrambled egg hotdog, a pizza hotdog, a taco hotdog, and two corndogs. The taco hotdog was the best. Basically, they put any topping on a hotdog, and the result is surprisingly tasty! Their menu is also on the web and can be googled. We had a blast there. We began talking to three bikers, two male and one female. The female gave us recommendations on what to order, and showed us how big her salad was when she got her order. She showed where she had brought a baby blanket to the shack with all of her family's signatures on it, and where it was displayed.  Before leaving the shack, if you leave a tip, the workers sing a "weenie" song to you. It was quite a fun experience that we talked about all day. If you are ever near Lesage, you have to stop.
Then we drove on to our hotel in Mammoth Cave, KY. The speed limit in Southern West Virginia and Kentucky has been 70 mph.  In total we drove over 400 miles today, and were very happy to get to our hotel.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We made it to Beckley, WV

At 11:00 this morning, Nana took our picture in front of our loaded van and then we heading off on our summer trip. Don't we look happy! Right before that, Blair and Brooke had been arguing and Molly was refereeing. There were tears, yelling and gnashing of teeth. What a way to start a long journey together! But after some threats, we pulled it together to get the picture taken. And everyone did well on the first 243 miles of our journey.
Below Winchester on I81 it started to rain so hard that we had to put on our flashers for a while. Then it stopped and the sun was shinning. I love the new GPS system. When we were ready to eat, using the GPS, I found a neat worker-owned, vegetarian grill in Harrisonburg that we loved. Deana, there was even a picture of John Lennon! Blair liked the restaurant so much she bought a t-shirt!
Now we're at our hotel. It's nice - one room with two queen beds and a sleeper sofa. Tonight we are going to TheaterWV to watch the Hatfield and McCoys. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

We leave tomorrow.

Since we leave tomorrow, I finally made reservations for the first 2 nights that we'll be gone. I also made reservations to see the play The Hatfields and the McCoys at the WVTheater in Beaver, WV. Then I made reservations for our tour of Mammoth Cave. I chose the four-hour cave tour where you get to eat lunch in one of the rooms in the cave. There was a tour called The River Styx Cave Tour that we wanted to go on, but it was already booked. Some people are better organized than me!  
I think that we have purchased everything, and we have started to pack. I made a checklist for the girls, and Molly and Brooke are mostly packed. Blair is out enjoying one last evening with her friends before she is cooped up with her family all summer! Blair, Jerry and I will probably pack in the morning. No sense in rushing these things! 
We hope to leave by 10 a.m. We will drop Duncan, our dog, off at the home where he is staying for the summer, and then we'll head down 81. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Does anyone have any ideas of things to do in Kansas? Except drive through!


School is finally out for the kids. Our last day is tomorrow. I can't believe that our school year lasts so long. At least this year seemed like a long year. Today I sent my resume to a school closer to my house, Middletown Middle School. In fact, it's the school that Molly will go to next year. It would be so convenient, but we'll see what happens.
Today was a big day for the Donald girls. It was Blair's last day at the middle school, Molly's last day at the elementary school, and Brooke's last day at the primary school. Next year, all three girls will be in the youngest grade in their schools - 9th, 6th, and 3rd. Everyone seems to be excited to be moving on. I can't believe that they are growing up so fast! Brooke is sitting beside me now watching as I type this, and she is promising to always be my baby!
Anyway, we're glad that summer is finally here. Bring it on!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Six days to go!

So yesterday while lounging at the pool, Jerry starts thinking about our trip. We were thinking about driving all the way down to Carlsbad Caverns which are in the southern part of New Mexico,  but now are changing our minds.  We want to go St. Louis and after that we were thinking of driving down to Memphis and then through Arkansas and Texas to Carlsbad. But after much thought, we decided that that's a lot of driving to see one place and it could be another trip at another time. So we changed our minds and decided that after St. Louis to travel straight through Kansas to get to Colorado. That will allow us more time out west. I wonder if we'll change our minds again? We really have no idea what we are doing!
I didn't post this past week that I went to Georgetown and got a good report from my doctor. My cancer didn't grow enough to worry about, so we are still at the monitoring stage. I go in three months, just to check in. In six months, I have another CT scan. I was really scared before I went, because I was afraid that I would be the one that would stop our family from this trip that we have talked about for a while. I was really relieved when the appointment was over and everything was okay.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One week until we take off!

I can't believe that we are actually leaving in one week. The kids have 2 more days of school and Jerry and I have 3. This school year is dragging on way too long. I think a law should be made that school has to be out by the second Friday in June. Anyway, yesterday Jerry showed a friend how to take care of the lawn, and we already have someone lined up to take care of Duncan, our dog. This weekend we are going to make a list of what we need to take. Our neighbor's mom gave the great idea of rolls of quarters for laundry. I'm sure we'll forget some things, but there are stores where we are going!