Thursday, September 29, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 15

We woke up this morning, ran through breakfast, packed up the car, and embarked on a short journey, (1.5 hr.), to Chattanooga. We then got out at our hotel, Springhill Suites again, and brought all the bags we would need for the night inside. Then we walked a few blocks over to the Tennessee Aquarium. It is supposed to be the best aquarium in the US, and I think it lived up to it’s title. There were to buildings, one for freshwater creatures, and one for saltwater ones. Inside the freshwater aquarium, we saw River Otters, HUGE lake-dwelling fish, and all sorts of other fascinating creatures. We even saw a gecko! In the saltwater aquarium, we saw sharks, sea turtles, seahorses, and lots more. The top floor of each building was like a greenhouse, with plants and caves inside, with all sorts of shallow water creatures in tanks inside the jungle. What I liked best about it though is that the atmosphere and everything in the aquarium makes it feel like you are really under the ocean, or in the forest. There was even a pretend underwater cave you could go in. It looked real, and there were sharks, sea turtles, and fishes swimming over your head and all around you. After we left the aquarium buildings, we played in the river-themed splash pool outside the buildings. (Although we did not just splash, we got soaked!)  By that time we were all worn out, and went back to the hotel to eat our dinner and sleep.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 14

Today we left early in the morning after a hasty breakfast. We packed up, gave our final hugs, and clambered into the car. We were all very sad when it was time to go, because we won’t see Uncle Bob, Aunt Sue, Anna and Amanda for another year.
 Our car has now pulled out of the driveway. We are officially on the road again! We are not making a direct trip though, our next detour is in about an hour at the Udar-Harvey Air and Space Museum. There is an actual space shuttle there, that we have been wanting to see. We just pulled in, and hurried inside. The museum will only be open for another hour, and there is so much to see! We will have to hurry. There are huge rooms filled with planes, hanging from the ceiling or standing on the ground. We saw the space shuttle, which is HUGE, we saw the SR-71 Blackbird, (the fastest self-propelled plane), and we saw any number of tiny planes too. It was awesome! We left the museum after buying several small metal model planes and one plane shaped kite, and got back on the car. Now all we need to do is lay back and settle in for a long, long drive. 7.5 hours to be exact! We are going to Knoxville, Tennessee, where we will spend the night at Springhill Suites. Tomorrow we will go to the Tennessee Aquarium!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 13

Today, while the plan was to do what we hadn’t done before in D.C., we decided to go back to the Lake for the day! I am so exited to go skiing, and swimming, and tubing! We arrived early in the morning, and went to the lake at about 10:00 in the morning. We went skiing, tubed for the last time, jumped off of the dock’s roof, and had lots of fun in general. It has been nearly three weeks since I have been in a room by myself, and I do look foreword to going back home, but I will miss the lake. We still have a few days of vacation left though, including going to the Tennessee Aquarium, so the adventure is not over yet.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 12

Later, we visited the White House Visitor's Center, and us kids filled out a Junior Ranger workbooks, and were finally sworn in to get our badges. We left the White House about lunchtime, and walked across the street to Union Station, planning to eat at the food court. Mim, Nathan and I stayed to eat at a salad restaurant called Chopped, while the rest of the group ate at Taco Bell. We ate our salad, and then met each other in the Dollar General. Mom had gotten them some goodies, (namely toy metros and a pink snow globe) which they were eager to show us as we found our parking spot. We went back to the hotel for a while to regroup and decide what to do next, and finally decided that Dad would take Nathan, Malachi, Mim and I to National Cathedral while the others stayed to rest. National Cathedral is really beautiful and intricate, with detail on every inch, and we explored as much as we could before going back to hotel again. Our plan for the rest of the day was to play at the new state-of-the-art Long Bridge Park that Uncle Bob had helped to design. It is really cool, with misters, tunnels and bridges, and we loved the playtime. Then we drove to Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue’s house for a delicious dinner, featuring fresh crab. (We took it apart ourselves!) Another great day!

This reminds me, at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, we saw the first “Washington Monument”, a statue of our first president half-dressed, holding a piece of paper in one hand. We had studied about it before we left.  I did not think that that it was a good representation of George Washington. It really looked more like a Roman. We also saw many exhibits of how the capitol was built and acts of Congress in the past. After watching an informational video about the Senate and House of Representatives, we were ready to go. We then followed the call of our loudly growling stomachs to the Department of Agriculture, where we ate a delicious meal. Afterward, we headed to the Postal Museum, which is little trafficked, but well worth seeing.  There are fun activities and tons of information about how the mail gets around. It is really cool. By the time we finished there, it was time to go back to the hotel for another Trader Joe’s sushi and some rest. We really needed it, as the time change and so much to do has not done too well for our rest. I wonder what we’ll do tomorrow?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 11

Dad left early for Arkansas early this morning, while we slept in ‘til about 8:00. After we had eaten another hotel breakfast, (close to the heart of us kids because of all the sugary stuff never allowed in our house), we set off on another adventure. We were going to take a tour of the Capitol today, but the tour was cancelled. It is really too bad, but we can still see the Visitor’s Center. We were almost there, when Mom and Malachi started walking faster. I asked them what was wrong, and Mom said that Malachi needed to go to the bathroom. “Really badly!” he replied, hopping on one foot. Mom told me that they were going to go ahead, and that we should meet them just inside the door. “Just stick with Anna” Mom told us as they hurried ahead.
We had no trouble finding the visitor’s center, but the problem was, they wouldn’t let any, and I mean any food or drink inside, and they had strict security to enforce it. We did not know what to do, as Anna’s bag was full of snacks that we had been eating. We told the security of our plight, but she only said that we could eat it or throw it away. We could not eat all of it, and did not want to throw it away, so we called Mom for a solution. She came back outside, and helped us distribute the food among hungry people who had finished their tours, the squirrels, and ourselves. This done, we were finally ready for the Capitol Visitors Center. It was full of interesting exhibits, We rode the Metro to the Capitol, admired the scenery, and then went inside. It is more like a museum than just a visitors center! First, in the hall, there are statues of famous people from different states, some of them really well done, and then there are two wings, the first being a large room holding a replica of “Freedom”, the statue on the top of the dome.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 10

Today, Dad and Mim stayed home for the morning with Kierstin and Lincoln to catch up on some rest, while the rest of us walked to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, with Anna & Amanda, after Uncle Bob dropped us off (The place where they make money). We got there and stopped at the information cube outside the building, where the lady pointed us to the ticket cube. The tickets to the B.E.P. (Bureau of Engraving and Printing) are free, but can be hard to get due to demand. We were able to get tickets for just an hour in advance, and, to decide what to do with the extra time, we held a conferral on the sidewalk. After looking at the map, we decided to go to the US Department of Agriculture and see if it was open to the public. However, on the way we saw that the National Forestry Service was open. We had discussed it before, but their website said they were closed. We went in and asked the Park Ranger there if we could visit. He said we could, so we walked in. We were greeted by a pretend office, and sitting in a chair to greet us was a large “Smokey Bear”. The bear looked up, and said in a deep voice, “Hmmm? Oh! Oooohhh, it’s you there!” Then he looked around, and, lifting his arm to point at us, declared, “Remember, only you can prevent forest fires!” And then looked back at the letter in his hand. It was very funny! The next room was decorated to look like a forest and was very convincing. In the corner was a TV playing all the Smokey Bear commercials ever created, some of which are very funny. In the other room you stepped into a forest cabin. It was such an amazing place! They have all sorts of free Smokey Bear trinkets, and we walked out the door with magnets, stickers, and bookmarks galore. We came back to the cube in time to meet our tour, and we went into the building. After watching an informational video to get us acquainted with the overall money making process, we were led into the factory. The guide showed us all the machines, and explained how the design of money is always changing to make it more difficult to counterfeit. The machines are very high-tech, and they make huge sheets of money, which are then cut, stacked, and inspected. There was one man behind the glass, working on the machines, that held up a piece of paper that read “I love my job!” and then started fanning himself with one of the large sheets of money! In the gift shop they had all sorts of things, all decorated with the shredded pieces of money that had mistakes in their printing. Nathan bought a keychain, and we walked out of the Bureau. By then, time to get lunch. We had heard about a good food court at the Department of Agriculture, so we walked the short distance to the building. It was very delicious, and after we were full, we went to pick up food from the Farmers Market for our picnic. The plan is to eat while watching the Iwo Jima marching band, and bayonet precision work. I think it will be a lot of fun. When we got to the Market, Mom decided to get several sandwiches and cupcakes, and asked Anna and I to pick out a fruit. We walked through the tables, and finally decided to get two brimful containers of large blackberries. We secured them inside the Walmart bag, and raced back to where Mom was waiting. We now had everything we needed, so we walked to the metro station a few blocks away. Just as we got down the escalator, we realized that we were missing the sandwiches! Mom had left them on the counter in all the excitement! Anna and I raced down the streets, as fast as we could regarding traffic laws, until, winded, we were back to the market. We slowed our pace as we walked through the door, grabbed the bag, and ran back out. We went back even faster then before, ran down the escalator, and were back, (I think), in less than five minutes. We boarded the Metro, only slightly late, and made it in time for the show. It was really amazing, and the picnic was delicious. I love Washington DC!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 9

Today Dad and Mim left early in the morning  (about 6:30) to get us tickets to tour the Washington Monument. The tickets are free, but very hard to get due to the long lines. Long after they left, we woke up and headed down to the lobby to get some breakfast. We finished at about nine thirty, but then learned that Dad, contradictory to Moms instruction, had gotten tickets for ten-thirty! We couldn’t get in the car, pick up Anna and Amanda from their house, park the car, and ride the metro to the Washington monument in less than an hour. We told Dad, and, (thank goodness!) he was able to find tickets for noon, which was perfect. When we got there, we had a bit of spare time to go in the gift shop and look around before going outside to wait on the tour. After chatting with a park ranger, we headed inside to the intense security check. They have recently closed the steps to the Monument, so you have to take an elevator. It is really too bad, but considering how sore we were from yesterday’s treck, nobody really minded. He talked a bit on the way up, mostly about the rules on the viewing point. Then, the elevator stopped and we all hopped out to look out the windows. It is really beautiful, and you get a full view of the city. As we took the elevator down, the tour guide turned off the light so we could see the stones that  the different states and countries had donated. Some are very large, and very intricate. After we got back to the ground, we walked to the Natural History Museum. (The walk didn’t seem that bad when we walked into the wonderful air conditioning!) We saw the Ocean Gallery, in which my favorite part was the giant squid, and then we went to lunch. Never eat at the Smithsonian cafe, because each pizza slice is 7 dollars! After the lunch, we went to the Rocks and Minerals section. It is really beautiful. There are whole huge display cases full of beautiful rocks and gems, in all different shapes and sizes. After that, we viewed the Mammals section. The animals are really amazing, and look like they are really alive! Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to get some much-needed sleep.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 8

We woke up in the hotel this morning, woke up, played, and ate breakfast. Then it was time to pick Mim up from the airport. Dad, Nathan, Malachi, Kierstin and I went. Once we got back and ate lunch it was time to go into the city. We drove to the Air Force Memorial. It is very impressive, and it was very interesting to read the large stone plaques that mark the virtues of the Air Force. We then headed to the south-east side of the Tidal Basin, and after searching for a parking spot, (which are in short supply in the Capitol), we hopped out of the van ready to see some of the most famous memorials and monuments. One our way to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, we walked around the Jefferson Memorial. Malachi pointed out that the Jefferson Memorial had a dome just like the one at Monticello, which I thought was very observant. Next we walked a little ways to the F.D.R. Memorial. It was beautiful, full of waterfalls, rocks, flowers, statues, and F.D.R.’s quotes. Next we trekked to the Martin Luther King Monument, which I think is a very powerful one, a large rock with his statue engraved on the  side. From there it was a short walk to the World War 2 Memorial. It took my breath away, with a very grand entry to a large oval formed by stones with each state’s name on it. Steps led down into a large oval-shaped area with two fountains in the middle. In one side were over 4,000 golden stars, each representing 100 lives lost in the war. It was beautiful, but very sad. We from there visited the Vietnam War Memorial. It is a huge, long stone wall engraved on it the names of all the people that died in the war. It is especially sad that the soldiers who did survive did not even get much credit for what they did. From there we went to the Abraham Lincoln Monument, which is very inspiring. Our last Memorial was the Korean War Memorial, which was special to me because my Pa-Paw was a soldier in the Korean War. The Memorial is several statues of soldiers spread out along the grass. The looks on their faces are very realistic. It was another sad one. By the time we had finished the loop back to the van, everybody was exhausted from the walk. We ate sushi from Trader Joes, and slept like rocks.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 7

Tomorrow is our last day at the Lake before we head to Washington D.C. When we leave for D.C., Granna and Poppa will head back to Northwest Arkansas, while Mim joins us for the rest of the trip.  I am exited to see the Capitol, but sad to leave the Lake. At least we will come back in a few years. (Side note: I got swimmers ear last night; it really hurts.)
We play at the lake for the last time, then head back to the Lake House on our bicycles, planning to spend another quiet afternoon relaxing. (Do you catch a hint of foreshadowing?) Anyway, we got back, and learned that Mom and Poppa had discovered a four or five inch deep water leak in the basement. Oh, no. We held a short conference and decided to evacuate now, opposed to in the morning like we had planned. We gathered up, cleaned up, went down to the lake and tidied up there, and left on the two-hour drive to Alexandria. Now, we are ready to see the sights, and explore the Capitol.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 6

Today is our second to last day at the lake. We sleep in, and the rest of the morning passed by quickly. Right after lunch, we have a quiet time, and I play board games “Trouble” and “The Game of Life” with Anna and Amanda. It was a lot of fun, and we laughed so hard  while playing trouble! This evening, we got to do even more skiing, and I am going to learn to cross the wake! Uncle Bob told me to not look at the wake, but over it. That helps a lot, and I can now cross it really well! I also learned a way to make the tubing even more exiting. If everybody in the tube leans to one side, the tube bounces over the wake. If you go over the wake while turning, and then lean right back, the momentum will carry you over the wakes super fast and bumpily.

Trip Saga, Day 5

Today, we get to head out  to the lake! While Mom and the four younger kids load up to pick Dad up from the airport, I stay at the lake with Bob, Sue, Granna, Poppa, Anna and Amanda. The grown-ups talk for a while and we finish up breakfast, and then we head to the lake. Amanda hunts for minnows with a piece of an old bun and a net while we jump in the water. We swim and play on the slide until Granna shouts “Look at this! It’s a huge fish!!!” We all come to look, and see that several fish were attracted to the bread that Amanda had left in the water. “Let’s get the fishing pole!” I said, exited. We went into the closet and were able to retrieve one, and once we baited the hook with more potato bun bait, we lowered it into the water. Not long after, a small catfish was reeled onto the dock. We let that one go, but caught two more. Afterwards, we went waterskiing, (I got up and went a long ways!) and went for an evening tube. Tubing is so much fun, especially when you go extra fast and bumpy!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 4

Today we are going to Historic Colonial Williamsburg. It is an hours drive, so we started super early, and I got to ride with Anna, Amanda, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue on the drive! We finally arrived at the visitors center, and after meeting up with the rest of the crew, boarded the shuttle to the actual town. Williamsburg is a beautiful place with tons to see and do.    Just walking down the street seems like you have gone back in time! Ladies and Gents in Colonial dress roam the streets and greet you with a formal “Good Day”.  Real carriages sweep down the streets very regularly, and some of these people actually work here full time to manage the old fashioned shops that line the streets. It is amazing to walk into these shops and talk to people who actually practice this trade and know what they’re doing, not just reenacting. Everything that they make is by hand, and from pretty much raw materials, just like it would be in the real Williamsburg.
We also got to take tours of two buildings, the old Capitol, and the Governor’s Palace. The tour of the Capitol was very interesting, and the lady who guided the tour told us about the building, the politics around it and the decisions made in it. What really struck me about the tour though, was that in the middle, she told the children in the room “I know these politics may seem boring to you now, but when you grow up you will have to deal with the problems in our government, and the mistakes that we made, and you are going to have to make your own decisions in our government too.” The next tour, the Governor’s Palace, was very fun. Our tour guide knew how to incorporate the building and architecture with the story of the Governor’s family. She let us through the rooms, pointing out all of the expensive details that were carefully worked into the home, and telling the story of the mob that stormed the palace. She explained also that there was not a completely right and wrong side to the Revolutionary war, because although our cause to create our own country might have been right, some of our actions were not.
Williamsburg was so much fun, but now we’re all exhausted and ready to get back to the lake house for a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Trip Saga, Day 3

Today we had a lake day! Everybody geared up in life jackets, we brought out the boxed “Scooby Doo snacks” and headed out. Everybody hopped in the van, except Anna, Amanda and I. We rode on bikes for the short distance. When we got there, we ran down the boardwalk to the lake and were met with the beautiful water shining in the warm summer lake. We had a wonderful time swimming, and I learned to paddleboard and canoe! I also got to practice waterskiing, and we all had lots of fun tubing out behind the boat. In fact, in the evening, we decided to go on a final ride. We loaded up the crew, the first shift on the two tubes being the kids under 9, Mom and Granna. They had lots of fun! When it was our turn, we stopped in the water. This sounds ordinary, but this was close to the place where the  power plant that made Lake Anna dumped it’s water when it was finished, and it was very warm, nearly to hot tub standards. Our group hopped into the tubes and we took off in the boat, trying to get away from the ominous storm cloud that had crept across the sky. We made it home safely, but it was a wild ride! The raindrops were tiny and fast, and almost hurt. Plus, the waves that seemed tiny before do not seem quite so small when you’re bouncing over them at high speeds. It was like an insane roller coaster, but I do not deny that it was kind of fun! We all made it home, and slept like rocks. I can’t wait for tomorrow!