Monday, August 13, 2018

Searls Family Road Trip 2018

It All Started with Every Kid in a Park Pass

Two years ago, Leslie, Scott, and I took Seth, Maggie, and Sophie on a crazy road trip that looped through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  We took 2 cars and a bunch of luggage. The ride itself wasn't bad; but, checking in and out of hotels and finding inexpensive and relatively healthy food made it a pretty exhausting adventure.  Not to mention the expense!  We started talking about buying an RV on that trip. We came home and started looking; eventually buying Miss Lippy.  This year we finally had all the remodeling done on her. Sophie was in 4th grade and could get the Every Kid in a Park Pass; so, we decided it was time for our second road trip.

Originally, we had planned to go to the Grand Canyon and up through Colorado into Yellowstone.  But, a series of unexpected events kept us from ever getting the trip planned. We finally decided to take a loop through Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee to see what few National Parks there are in those states. We also planned to visit historical Civil War sites.  As a teacher, I'm appalled at how quickly events such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and pioneer advancement are skimmed over in school these days.  It was important to me that my own grandchildren see and experience the atmosphere in those sacred sites so they fully understand the sacrifices that were made to establish this great nation.
On July 22, with Seth camping out at Scott's house to do doggie day care and watch over the chickens, Ron, Scott, Leslie, Maggie, Sophie and I took off in Miss Lippy with Thor as our chase car.

We stayed in KOA campgrounds along our trip because we wanted full hook-up, easy in and out parking, a pool, and laundry facilities.  The sites we chose are listed below with a 1 to 5 star rating; 1 being barely acceptable and 5 being we would gladly go there again.
Hot Springs KOA, Hot Springs, AR - 5
Prizer Point KOA - Land Between the Lakes Area, Cadiz KY - 1
KOA Journey - Corbin KY - 4
KOA Hurricane Mills - Hurricane Mills, TN - 3
KOA Journey - Little Rock, TN - 5
KOA Texarkana - Texarkana, TX  - 4

Our intention was to find a camp ground that was centrally located and use it as a home base. Once we got to the chosen sites, we realized there were way too many things to do in 2-3 days.  At the half way point, Scott mentioned it would be easier to travel with Miss Lippy in shorter bursts of time by driving to destinations that had parking large enough for an RV, visit as long as we wanted then eat lunch before heading to our next camp ground. We changed some of our reservations and the plan worked out great.  It made it possible to have shorter times in the vehicles, and we weren't spending so much time driving from centrally located campgrounds. Scott is planning the next trip and will keep that discovery in mind.  Leslie put it best when she said, "We learned a lot from our first RV camping trip, and we just keep learning with each trip." 

Here is a collection of pictures we took before and during our 2018 Searls Family Road trip. 

Two of the bunk quilts I made from scraps of the curtain fabric.

...2 more bunk quilts

a few of the road trip shirts

Day 1: departure!

I started out with the best of intention regarding pictures of me... ha!

Our first stop was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. I can't tell you how many times we have driven past this park on trips to and from Ohio to visit family.  I'm so glad we finally made it a point to stop! It is simply beautiful! The RV park was small, well shaded, easy to access, and had a wonderfully welcoming staff. It is a little old but in great condition. We especially loved the ice cream truck that drove through each evening.  The town of Hot Springs is in a wonderful location, nestled between tall, tree covered hills. The streets are lined with quaint shops filled with bath salts, oils, and assorted gift items.  There was also a wonderful, hand-on science center in Hot Springs. It is called Mid-America Science Museum.  The outdoor exhibit is outstanding, with a suspension bridge and dino trek. 

Part of the suspension walk at the science center

one of the statue on the dino trek

one of several odd, mechanical displays

Poppy's first road trip!

The perfect shot... mid sentence.

What's up with that belly!?!?! Love the ice cream truck!

Family shot in the hills on Pinnacle drive

Mimi, Poppi, Maggie, and Sophie

Uncle Scott

One of the many active bath houses

entrance to a beautiful walking path behind the bath houses

one of several hot spring fountains in town

The girls really didn't like the hot water!

Our second stop was at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation area in western Kentucky. Boy was Prizer Point RV park a disappointment! When I made the reservations, it listed "spacious pull through sites with lake views, game room, lending library, bouncing pillow, pedal carts, boat rentals, corn hole, volley ball, basketball, laundry facilities, 2 pools, all in a beautiful setting."  It was poorly cared for, run down, bug riddled, over priced, and the personnel were incompetent! At this point I was starting to feel a little concerned about the rest of the trip! Fortunately, we didn't spend much time at RV park so that helped.  We visited Patti's 1860 Homestead and Settlement, the bison and elk reserve in the Land Between the Lakes recreation area, Ft. Donelson Civil War site, and took the driving tour. It was very well done! You drive to sites in numerical order, enter a number on your smart phone, and listen to a description of the location. Much more enjoyable that reading it aloud your self. We ended this leg of the journey with a stop at the National Corvette Museum.  The sink hole display was fascinating and frightening at the same time!

At Patti's 1860 Settlement
Sophie and the static hair slide...

Maggie & Sophie 

Uncle Scott checking out a future wood shop project...

LOVE this furniture! Seth needs to take welding next year.

Ft. Donelson

Maggie working on the Junior Ranger packet

We could just see the elk sticking to the shade; it was so hot!!!

A couple of mother & calf bison, also trying to stay cool in the shade.

The Dover Hotel, a river boat stop near Ft. Donelson

Ft. Donelson National Historic Site

location of one of the first iron clad battles

overlooking the Cumberland River

the family

It was fascinating to learn how they built the battlements of earth, overlooking the river. 

Civil War/Veteran's Cemetery, Ft. Donelson

Ron and Scott

Leslie and the girls

A collection of cars that were destroyed in the sink hole

outside the Corvette Museum

Miss Lippy was the cheapest and healthiest restaurant! 

Our second leg of the road trip was in Eastern Kentucky. Our intention was to go to Mammoth Caves National Park on Friday, Ft. Boonesboro and Cumberland Falls State park on Saturday, then Cumberland Gap National Park on Sunday. We had to change things around because my brother and his wife wanted to meet up somewhere in Kentucky. They live across the river from Louisville, Kentucky and the site closest to them was Ft. Boonesboro. So, we ended up going there on Friday. It was a bit of a disappointment because the weekend is when they have all their tradesmen and demonstrations. However, we did get to visit the fort without a crowd, and there were a couple of demos going on; candle making and the smithy. It was good to see Larry, Kathy, and their daughter Hannah, so the missed opportunity was worth it. 
The decision to switch days also made our trip to Mammoth Caves a huge disappointment. It was so crowded on Saturday and the best tours were already filled by the time we got there. We did go on a self guided tour of one of the caves and had a nice picnic lunch at the park.  Of course, Ron (The Mayor, as our kids used to call him) made lots of new friends as he sat on benches and chatted with complete strangers.  Our trip wasn't a total bust; and, we learned another important lesson about popular National Parks in peak season... don't go.
My favorite place was Cumberland Gap National Park... and I didn't take any pictures!!! It was amazing to reacquaint ourselves with the stories of the early settlers that crossed such rugged territory to establish new territory.  Seeing Ft. Boonesboro, and then watching the informational video about the Cumberland Gap and it's exploration was perfectly meshed.  I think it helped the grands have a clearer understanding of the sacrifices our ancestors made. We enjoyed the wonderfully cool days and crisp evenings; the lush, green Cumberland Mountains, and the warm, friendly people. I simply didn't want to leave. Of course, while we were in the area, we couldn't pass up visiting the site of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and enjoying a meal. It was so quaint and nostalgic and made it easy for us to break our "no fast food" rule. On a side note, there is a difference between the Cumberland Gap National Park and the state park. At the state park, you can see the famous Moonbow. It's a bit crowded but worth the effort to go. 

Several of the cabins have demonstrations in them most weekends.  

Demonstrations include, candle making, weaving, calligraphy & printing, the black smith's forge, and re-enactments.

In one of the cabins, there was a video explaining the role of Daniel Boone in the settlement of Kentucky.

Maggie and Sophie

Corbin, Kentucky is home of the original Sanders Cafe.

Maggie had a kids road atlas that she read aloud from during most of the trip.
It was in her atlas that we discovered this little gem.

The weather was surprisingly cool, compare to the triple digit temps we left in Texas!

Love, love, love this place! Can't wait to go back.

working hard on yet another badge

I love how this ranger station had the backdrop for the pledge ceremony.

Sophie wasn't as excited about the "learning" part of our trip as Maggie was.

Ahhhh; breathtakingly beautiful!

Our next 2 days were actually travel days.  We had to get from Eastern Kentucky to Texas in short travel segments so we stopped the first night at a town called, Hurricane Mills, TN. It is just west of Nashville, TN. While we were there, Leslie and I took the girls into Nashville to another science museum. This one was by far the best I've ever visited! It's called, Adventure Science Center on Ft. Negley Blvd. Not in the best part of town; but, worth the trip! Leslie has a family pass to the science center in Ft. Worth and it comes with a joint membership agreement with many science centers across the nation. She is able to get free entry for their family and 2 guests. It is well worth the purchase because visiting science museums on hot afternoons is a perfect summer activity.

the ever-reading-Maggie

Beyond the Rubic's Cube was mind boggling! So many applications for a simple toy! 

Rubic's cube wall art

super fun playscape

When we left Hurricane Mills, we stopped at Shiloh National Civil War Park.  While there, we found a memorial built to Col. James Vetch, and ancestor on my mother's side. The site covers many acres and the driving tour is a little confusing, but doable in an afternoon.  Regardless of how much time a person spends there, the atmosphere is powerful. I know there is currently a lot of controversy about Confederate memorials at state and county locations; but, how can we simply erase part of our history? Men and women from both sides sacrificed so much for a cause they believed in. Whether they were north or south shouldn't discount their courage and commitment. I fervently hope and pray that future generations will protect these national parks and monuments because society learns from analyzing and reviewing the historical mistakes made; not by erasing them.

Outside the visitor center

The junior ranger program here was pretty extensive. But, who can resist dressing up
in period clothing!

Sophie in confederate dress

Maggie working on the museum scavenger hunt

Getting some help from Uncle Scott and Poppi

Veatch memoria

Each state that had soldiers in the battle erected a monument. 

Almost home! Our last stop was back in Arkansas at Crater of Diamonds park. It is a bit off the beaten path and on a pretty winding road. But, the girls both enjoyed the stop for their own reasons. Sophie loved the physical part; digging, sloshing in water, and picking through pebbles. Maggie enjoyed the educational portion and found the discovery facts fascinating. They are so different and we were lucky to find things to interest them at each stop.  Lucky for us, we got to the park early in the morning and the weather was surprisingly pleasant. There were a lot of serious diamond hunters there, decked out in work clothes with every digging implement imaginable. One sweet family gave the girls an assortment of shovels and pails as we entered the park. Leslie also rented some additional equipment for the day.  We didn't find any diamonds (sigh) but had a great time. 

view of the crater

sitting in the shade

all decked out with digging gear and ready to go

digging and sifting

sorting and hunting

sloshing and filtering

sweating and smiling

This face says it all!

As I finish up this post, I can't pass up the chance to say how thankful I am that I've had these experiences with some of the people I love most. We had several discussions about the next trip in 2020, hoping more of our family member can go with us. Miss Lippy was amazing! She chugged up and down the mountains and swerved her way around the twisting country roads without much complaint. Our only difficulty came in the final stretch as we hit rough Arkansas roads and Texas traffic. The bunk room ended the trip looking like an earthquake took place back there; and, Scott is pretty sure her tires left the road on a few bumps in Arkansas. I think it is safe to say, we are all pretty confident she will give us several more years of adventures.  Go RV!!

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