Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kevin's Final Blog

My common theme for our trip was the idea of freedom. It just kept coming up in different ways.

Charleston, SC - Fort Sumpter was the site of a long seige during the Civil War.

Savannah, GA - saw the plantation of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Montgomery, AL - MLK pastored here and ran the bus boycott, which was started by Rosa Parks in the downtown area.

New Orleans - OK, Bourbon Street was pretty much about being free to do anything you want.

Asheville, NC - the Biltmore Estate was definitely not free!

Monticello - We are lucky that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the others somehow converged at the same time and place to produce a document that changed the world.

There were many other things we saw related to native Americans, slavery, American independence and various wars that seemed to all make me think about freedom many times as we traveled. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for other family trip summaries....Kevin

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In the Boonies

Sorry - we have not had internet access the last two nights. Let me catch you up very quickly.

Tuesday: Woke up and visited a friend's home. The house had 240 rooms, including 99 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms. It sat on some 8000 acres in Asheville, North Carolina and sported a beautiful view of the mountains. All the furnishings were original from 100+ years ago. Amazing. You may have guessed the house does not belong to a friend of ours, but to george Vanderbilt. It's the biggest private residence in the US, and was a neat place to see. It's hard to believe people lived like this.

Later, we finished our driving for the day in Natural Bridge, VA. This is the site of an unusual geological formation that forms a huge bridge taller than Niagara Falls and weighs an estimated 72 million pounds in granite. They figure it took millions of years to form through erosion. George Washington first surveyed it when he was 18. Word about it got out, and Thomas Jefferson thought it so impressive that he bought it in a land grant from the King. In colonial times, it was considered one of the top natural wonders of the New World. Now, it's a tourist trap, but since I read a biography on Washington and Jefferson, and both books mentioned it, I really wanted to see it.

Wednesday: Visited Monticello and reconfirmed the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson in his day. Although the house seemed plain compared to our Biltmore visit the day before, it was still great to walk in the steps of such a visionary man. After Monticello, we stopped in to see the University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded. It's a very nice campus! Then we drove Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Forest. We were fortunate to come across a black bear cub on the drive! We all loved that so much. We ended our drive in Luray, VA at the Brookside Cabins. After our night in the Natural Bridge Inn, which was once an historic and fabled hotel but has since gone into some disrepair, I was a little nervous about my reservation at the cabins. But when we arrived, I was relieved to find a really quaint, clean cabin with 2 bedrooms (privacy, at last!). What a wonderful place to spend our final night away from home.

Thursday: Our horseback trail-riding was derailed by heavy rain, so we headed home early. When we arrived, we were greeted by two very, very happy dogs! Please come back and read our final blog; we will each summarize our travels in our own unique perspectives!

Cheers, Kevin

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nashville to Asheville

Today we left Grandpa and Grandma in Nashville and headed up to Asheville. The most exciting and only thing we did today was travel through the Smoky Mountains. We stopped on a lot of the pull-offs to take good pictures. I wanted to go hiking this trip so we went to part of the Appalachian Mountains to go on a hiking trail - the Appalachian Trail! We ended up hiking 3 miles on wet, slippery, muddy, and unstable(some) rocks and tree roots. You can't go hiking without somebody falling so I took the honors. I slipped on a big rock and slid down a couple more rocks. Luckly, I didn't bleed. I can't believe we see Hershey and Molly in only three more days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Touring Nashville

Today we actually did some touring of the Nashville area (we sort of needed to, it was our last full day in Nashville). We started our day in the town of Hermitage, about 20 minutes out of downtown Nashville. Hemitage is home to "The Hermitage." This was President Andrew Jackson's home. It was a huge estate that at one time needed around 150 slaves to run the plantation. The place was very well done and almost everything in the house was the same as when the family left it. There was so much to see there that you could really spend a whole day but we had to leave after 2 1/2 hours without doing the whole thing if we wanted to see downtown Nashville at all. It's probably kind of boring reading about what we did in Nashville but I'll tell you anyways. We pretty much walked up and down Broadway street (the honky-tonk area) looking at shops and stores. We also walked down to the water front at the end of the street, saw the old Grand Ole Oply building, and a little section of a fort (nothing overly exciting). Lauryn and I got cowboy hats and we all found some souvenirs. I think we have done our share for the economy today! Oh yeah, tonight we went through the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Gorgeous!!! Gardens everywhere and a river running right through it with some shops and retaurants acting like an island inside! I told everyone that if I got famous and/or rich, I would bring them back to stay in that hotel.

We'll be home soon but tomorrow we have to say good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa. They'll be flying home Tuesday and we leave for Asheville in tomorrow morning, but it's been great traveling with them!

Lynsey (sorry.......I know...... too long)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Hi ya'll,

We spent the day getting some of the local Nashville flavor by going to two shows. The first was a fiddler/comedian aboard a paddle steamboat on the Cumberland River. He did a great version of the Devil went down to Georgia, and was pretty funny too.

This evening, we went to the Grand Ole Opry. We didn't know any of the acts, but a lot of the audience seemed to, including Kevin's Dad. We did recognize some tunes. One was the Rocky Point Tennessee which was performed by the man who wrote it in the sixties. The show is really a radio broadcast, so there were many breaks for commercials, during which they would set up the equipment and mics for the next act. Most acts performed just one song, and the more current acts would only get two. Not music we usually listen to, but it was fun to hear all the variety in one show.

It was nice to come back to the same hotel instead of the constant changing in the past week! Hope you are all doing great! Kevin

made it to Nashville

We completed the final 200 miles of the trace on Friday bringing us to Nashville late Fri evening. The big hits of the day were the vistitor center that gave a nice video of the trail, stopping for ice cream in a SMALL town called Collinswood. We had to go to the corner Hasti Mart which was the corner gas station and eatery. The girls quickly picked up that it was the town gathering spot with everyone greeting people by name as they entered. It was a neat glimpse of how small town USA is. Another side trip and highlight was to Tuscumbia, AL, the hometown of Helen Keller. It was a great site with her orginal house and most of the furnishings inside. The museum there was also well done with so many of her items and pictures. One thing that we learned was that she is buried in the National Catherdral in Wash. DC. Even though we have been there a few times we never knew that and were told that they don't tell people that fact often unless you ask about it........They told us there was a great town park we could picnic at so we headed there before making our way back on the road. Expecting a plot of land with a few trees was not what we should have been thinking. It was a huge amazing area with a lake filled with swans and geese, a water fall, a big playground, a merry go round and a train that circled the open picnic areas. How fun. Lauryn fed the geese the crust off her sandwhich feeling bad that she didn't have enough for all 75 or so geese!! Back on the trace, at our next stopt we hiked to a creek hoping to see beavers but saw nothing except a park ranger. We told her what other stops we were making along the trail and she said that she would be making a presentation at the next one. It was the Meriweather Lewis memorial site where he died and was buried. Four years ago when we drove out west we learned about and followed at times the Lewis and Clark trail. It was nice to have that background when visiting here. From here we drove on a part of the original trace and found another hiking trail. This time not only did we see a beaver dam but the beaver as well. What a treat. Our last stop was the Jackson Falls which was a steep 900 foot hike down to peaceful and beautiful falls. Quite a kodak location. Wildlife that we saw today, besides the beaver, was deer, wild turkeys, turkey vultures, skunk and 2 dogs (both that belong to people living along the trace - not strays) We have been amazed how few people have been traveling on the trace - we would be the only car for miles on end and the only people at the stops along the way. At the visitors center we did see two other people!! The last 20 miles or so we were all done with the trail and eager to make it to Nashville.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

natchez trace

We continued our travels along the Natchez Trace today from Jackson MS to Tupelo MS. We spotted some wild life as well including an owl, lots of wild turkey, an armadillo and Donna's favorite a big snake making it's way across the road!! The scenery is very pretty but the novelty of a dirt path and Indian dirt mounds are starting to lose its appeal to the girls. We arrived in Tupelo MS later in the afternoon so we went to Elvis Presley's birth home and museum and of course they also had a gift shop. The weather has been clear during the day but both last night and tonight there have been some pretty violent thunderstorms. It looks like it is the same system that is hitting PA as well. We have about 200 miles left on the trace tomorrow taking us through 3 states and ending in Nashville.