Friday, September 08, 2017

Our Big Kentucky Road Trip Part 6: The Grand Finale

You know what they say . . . all good things must come to an end.  (I mean, SIX posts chronicling our road trip?  I promise it's coming to an end today!)  

Our big Kentucky road trip was winding down quickly, and it was almost time to return home.  But, just like everything else, we had to do it in grand fashion.  Our last stop was Chattanooga (and can I just tell you how much fun my kids had saying, "Chattanooga?!").  After a week on the road and lots of walking and hiking and exploring, we decided it was time for an indoor activity.  Unfortunately, the urgent care clinic isn't exactly the kind of indoor activity I had in mind.  But that was our first time that first morning in Chattanooga.  
Mason was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when I heard Seth ask him where all the blood was coming from.  Now, all of this happened in less than ten seconds.  My first thought is that I'm not going to run in there.  I'm just going to let Seth handle it (and all the Mommas are laughing).  And then I hear, "You gotta go to the emergency room."  By this time I'm thinking we have two options.  Seth is either grossly exaggerating, and I have something in my handy dandy first aid kit that will take care of whatever the problem is.  Or we have a MAJOR problem.  I'm still debating on whether or not to walk into the bathroom, but it finally becomes obvious that I'm going to have to go (and all the Mommas are shaking their heads in the affirmative).

I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail here, but when I saw the emergent problem, I thought Mason had gotten bitten by some kind of insect, it had itched a lot and he had scratched it so much that it became infected.  So, no, we weren't going to the emergency room.  But we were definitely going to an urgent care clinic because it was obvious no kind of over the counter cream was going to be enough for this big, bad daddy.  

When I was making hotel reservations the day before, Seth suggested we spring for a really nice hotel in downtown Chattanooga since we'd been rather thrifty elsewhere.  But I told him it wasn't worth it because we wouldn't spend enough time in the hotel and that I would rather save the "nice" hotel for another time.  It "just so happened" (because nothing ever really "just so happens") that our hotel was less than a mile from this urgent care clinic.

We all went to the clinic, but I was the only one who went in with Mason to see the doctor.  And I was floored.  The nurse told me initially that she thought he'd been bitten by a brown recluse spider.  Excuse me?  Yes.  A brown recluse.  But then she said she couldn't really be for sure and that the doctor would have to make that determination.  And, of course, you know she asked when this might've happened.  Well, I sure wish I knew!  Because, by this time, we'd already ascertained that Mason had this "place" on the inside of his thigh for at least two days and hadn't said anything to us about it!  I mean, how many times did I say when my kids were babies that I wish they could tell me what was wrong or what exactly was hurting.  Let me tell you.  Mason is 12 years old, and he's still not telling me when something is wrong!  Even Seth fessed up and said he thought he noticed Mason limping the day before, but he thought Mason was just being silly so he didn't say anything about it.  Yep.  And Seth is 40 years old.  But that's beside the point.

By this time, Mason is FREAKING OUT.  Totally.  He's trying so hard to be brave, but I can see it written all over his face.  I can see it in his eyes.  At this point, I really don't know much about a brown recluse spider except that it's poisonous.  So now Mason is asking me if it's venomous.  Because isn't venom the same thing as poison?  AM I GOING TO DIE?!?  He's nothing if not dramatic.

The doctor finally comes in and is all like, "Yep.  That's a brown recluse."  And then he goes into this dialog about how you have to be real careful because they can be in hotel bed sheets . . . um, EXCUSE ME?!  We have been in CAVES.  We have been in NATIONAL FORESTS.  I mean, I'm totally okay if this spider was in the cave or the park or on the hiking trail.  But THE BED?  Let's just say it was all I could do to get in another hotel bed after that, and we still had two nights to go!

So he doctored on it a little bit, prescribed some meds and that was it.  Or so I thought.  The rest of the story is that we were back in the pediatrician's office TWICE last week for said spider bite and two other places on Mason's legs that had since popped up and tested positive for MRSA.  Lovely.  Was he bitten by a spider to begin with?  It's possible.  But he also could've been misdiagnosed.  We'll never know for sure.  Regardless, it doesn't matter.  He just finished another round of meds, and it's looking a lot better now.

We gave Mason the option of going back to the hotel and spending the day there (but you better believe we were checking out the sheets!), but he said he felt fine and could do some walking.  We ate a yummy lunch and then went to the Tennessee Aquarium.  I was so excited about this.  We love aquariums and zoos, and I had never been to this one before.    
The Tennessee Aquarium did not disappoint!  I can see why it's one of the best rated.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
The aquarium was beautiful!  There were two separate buildings - freshwater and salt water.  We all agreed that the salt water building was our favorite, but the freshwater exhibits were really nice, too.
We took our time and just let the kids explore when and where and how they wanted to.  We got to watch the scuba divers feeding the fish.
Ellie and I were in awe at all the colorful fish.  And that cute little turtle down there at the bottom under the log.
The touch tank was a favorite spot.  We spent lots of time here touching stingrays and sharks.

The butterfly house was another fun place.  We called Mason the "butterfly whisperer."  Butterflies were flitting around everywhere, and if you were still enough and close enough, they would land on you.  They were constantly landing on Mason.  I still haven't figured out how he managed to be still!

Ellie tried and tried and tried to get one to land on her.  I've never seen her so still for so long.
And Mason is at it again.
Who doesn't love a good shark cage?  We all agreed we would NOT be okay with this!
Mason is still fascinated with sharks.  Maybe he'll be a marine biologist one day!

After we finished at the aquarium, we drove across the Tennessee River and visited Coolidge Park.  They all wanted to ride the carousel.  Usually I despise paying for a ticket, but this wooden carousel is over 100 years old and was lovingly restored by a master wood carver.  So I choked and bought tickets so they could ride.
And, of course, this one picked a crazy cat to ride!  And side saddle, no less.
Mason isn't too big yet to ride the carousel.
It was really warm, and the girls were begging to play in the fountains.  So we did.  Such a great view!
Mason opted not to get wet this time.  Because, you know, venomous SPIDER BITE.
We were pretty tired so we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep early.  The next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed to Rock City!  The kids were ecstatic when we crossed the Tennessee Georgia line and thought we'd head to Pop and Mimi's.  I had to explain to them that we would have to do that another time.  They loved the drive up Lookout Mountain.
We spent the morning exploring the trails and gardens and all the nooks and crannies.
We finally made it to the top.  It was pretty hot and steamy.  But we had a great view.
By this time, the kids were done.  DONE.  I don't think they fully appreciated the fact that they were looking out over SEVEN STATES at once.
I can't believe that in all of my growing up years, I'd never been to Rock City.  But I hadn't.

And here's the infamous Lovers' Leap.
They were so good to cooperate with another picture or two.

After that, we drove back down the mountain and started the trek southwestward.  We discussed cutting over to Nashville and spending the night there, but we ultimately decided to save that for another time.  We drove to Tuscaloosa before stopping to spend the final night.  Yep.  Still checking the bed sheets.

The next morning we stopped at Krispy Kreme before heading home.  It was a sweet ending to an even sweeter trip. 
I had the best time with my little family on this trip.  It was so much needed for all of us (especially me though). The kids did so. good.  They didn't complain about all the time we spent driving (although we limited driving time to four hours a day with the exception of the first day).  They didn't complain about cramped sleeping quarters some nights.  They didn't complain about having only one bathroom.  They woke up each morning, and the first thing they said was, "Where are we going today?"

If you ask Ellie was her favorite part about Kentucky was, she'll be very quick to tell you, "The cave."  I don't think Mason and Hannah Kate have decided yet.  My favorite part was just being with my people.

This road trip was also a way for me to figure out if there might be anymore road trips in our future depending on how the kids did.  And, YES, there definitely will be!  The hardest part will be deciding where to go first!  Our list is rather lengthy.

From the time we left our driveway until the time our tires hit our driveway again, we drove 2,158 miles.  I can't wait to do it again.  But I'm thinking it'll be even farther the next time!

If you missed it, you can see the rest of our trip here (if you've never been to Kentucky, you should totally go!):

Part 1:  Country Music, Fast Cars, Caves and Presidents

Part 2:  Louisville

Part 3:  The Creation Museum

Part 4:  The Ark

Part 5:  Waterfalls and Fried Chicken

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Our Big Kentucky Road Trip Part 5: waterfalls and fried chicken

After we left The Ark, I didn't have much of a plan.  I know.  Gasp!  I wasn't sure at that point how much time we'd have left (in other words, how much longer before work would begin calling Seth), and I hadn't really decided if we were going to continue heading south down the eastern side of the state or scoot back over to the western side.  I really wanted to spend some time in Daniel Boone National Forest.  I had several sites picked out I wanted to visit, but I also knew we definitely wouldn't make it to all of them.  We quickly agreed that we didn't want to go back down to Louisiana the same way we came up so we stayed on I-75 south and made our way towards Daniel Boone.  We were only going to have one day there so, of course, Cumberland Falls was my first choice.

We didn't have hotel reservations so Seth drove while I figured that out.  On a whim, I chose the little town of Corbin.  That was definitely an unexpected surprise!  I fell in love with that place and really wanted to stay longer.  We checked in to our hotel and then ate supper at the Italian restaurant across the street.  It was so. good.  They even gave us a discount on our meal when we showed them our hotel key.  We loved our hotel!  I don't even know how I lucked up on this one, but we ended up with two rooms.  There was another room off to the side of the main room that had a set of bunk beds and a television in it!  It was also the same exact price as a regular room.  I can't even begin to tell you what a treat this was after being pretty cooped up in hotel rooms across the state with three kids for, by this point, a week!  The kids had a room to themselves, and everyone had plenty of space.  So, yes, we already loved Corbin.

The next morning we headed out to Cumberland Falls.  There's a moonbow at the falls, the only one in the western hemisphere.  It was very cloudy and overcast on this particular day so we couldn't see it (I don't even think it was a full moon either so the weather probably didn't matter).  It was also a bit cooler so that was another welcome treat.
Cumberland Falls was super easy to navigate with the kids.  After our near hiking disaster with Hannah Kate at Mammoth Cave National Park, she was not excited about the prospect.  But I have to say it really wasn't "hiking."  There were two other waterfalls I wanted to go to, but those did require "hiking."  Needless to say, we didn't even attempt it.  So here is Cumberland Falls, also known as the Niagara of the South.
The day we were at the Falls was also our anniversary.  17 years.
I never imagined on that day that 17 years later we'd be in the midst of a 10-day road trip through Kentucky with our three children!
Hannah Kate had to visit the ladies' room so Mason and Ellie played along the shore of the Cumberland River.

I spy with my little eyes way up top on the rock . . .
Ever since Seth and I went to Glacier National Park a couple of years ago, the kids have begged us to take them to the mountains.  We aren't exactly "close" to any kind of mountains so that's a trip we've never taken with them.  So this was their first time being in the mountains.  That was another reason we made this trip.  
We were really hungry after spending the morning at the Falls so we drove back into Corbin for lunch.  Again, I loved this town!  It just so happens to be home to Sanders Cafe, which was the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken!
Needless to say, it wasn't up for discussion where we were going for lunch!  Seth asked me when was the last time I ate at a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I couldn't answer him.  Because I have no idea!  I mean, I'm pretty sure I have.  Maybe?  I think.  That's just not going to be a place I choose to go.  I couldn't even tell you where one is near where we live, if there even is one.  But, really, you can't visit Corbin without dining at the original!
I've said before that my father-in-law makes fun of my skinless boneless chicken breasts.  It wasn't until recently (like, within the past year!) that I would even cook a bone-in chicken.  And even then, I don't fry it.  I roast it.  But Seth has sort of mastered the technique of frying chicken legs, and my kids LOVE chicken-on-the-bone.  That's what they call it.  There's a difference between chicken and chicken-on-the-bone at our house. So they were so ready for this.
This was quite possibly their favorite meal of the whole trip!  The four of them ate every since piece of chicken in that bucket!  (I had chicken tenders.)

I wanted a picture of them holding the bucket.  I don't know why.  But somehow it ended up on Ellie's head.
There was a neat little museum here and lots of history about Colonel Sanders.  This picture just trips me up.  My kids, especially Hannah Kate, are suckers for statues.  You'd think he was real they way they're all cozied up to him!
After we ate lunch, we continued south.  We talked about several options and then decided to spend some time in Chattanooga.  The drive from Kentucky and down through Tennessee on I-75 was just beautiful!  Again, I was searching for a hotel.  Seth suggested we spring for a "nice one" and stay in the downtown area.  I was all like, "Nah.  All we do is sleep there.  We don't really spend any time at the hotel.  I'd rather just do what we've been doing and save the "nice one" for another time."

We booked two nights in Chattanooga, and our hotel ended up being less than a mile from this, which just so happened to be our very first stop the next morning . . .  

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Our Big Kentucky Road Trip Part 4: The Ark

I really had no intention of taking this long to post our road trip.  I mean, it's kind of like Noah waiting for the flood!  (Oh, I make myself laugh.)

But, here we are.  The whole reason we headed to Kentucky to begin with was to visit The Ark, a full-sized Noak's Ark that is built according to the dimensions in the Bible.  It is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet tall.  Honestly, these numbers really meant nothing to me at first except that it's just really, really, really big.  So when we turned the corner, and the Ark came into view for the first time, I was speechless.
I am, for the most part, a visual learner.  So when I finally got to see that life-sized structure of the Ark, I really can't describe in words what I felt or even what I was thinking.  I've known the Bible story my whole life.  

Noah's Ark is probably one of the most well-known "kids' stories" in the Bible, right along with David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion's den and Jesus walking on the water . . . you know, all those great Bible stories that are told over and over and over in kids' Sunday School classes.  And I've seen lots of pictures depicting the ark.  As a matter of fact, Mama has one hanging in my brother's old room at home.  It's so cute and bright and colorful.  All the animals are squished up together looking at the window of the ark.  I'm sure you've seen them, too.

I still remember nearly 15 years or so ago a sermon my pastor (at my parents' church) preached about Noah and the ark.  He focused on Noah's obedience.  I can right now remember, in particular, an exact statement from that sermon that has stuck with me all these years.  It was then that I began looking beyond the "kids' version" of the ark and really considered it as an "adult story" too.  And then five years ago I studied the book of Genesis at BSF (Bible Study Fellowship).  Yeah, let's just say that study radically changed my perspective of the Biblical account of Noah and the ark, and there were things I studied and thought about and learned that I never saw or understood before.  I can definitely say my visit to The Ark was shaped by what I learned during that study, and it made it that much more exciting to me.

The morning we arrived, it was pouring down rain.  And, I mean, POURING.  I didn't think about it at first, but once it hit me, it seemed kind of appropriate that it would be pouring down rain on the day we visited The Ark.  But I wasn't prepared for that.  I had only a small umbrella in my truck that's not big enough for two people, much less five people.  And there was a lot of outside walking to do before we actually entered The Ark.  Seth just took off and ran.  I held Ellie and squished Mason and Hannah Kate together with us as best I could under that umbrella.  When we arrived and parked, we had to walk to a covered area to hop on a bus that took us the rest of the way to the structure.  And once we arrived there and got off the bus, we still had a pretty good walk to The Ark.  I thought we did pretty good considering, but I didn't realize that Hannah Kate wasn't really under the umbrella and that all the rain that was dripping off the umbrella was falling right on top of her.  Poor thing was soaked by the time we got there.  She was a trooper though.

So here they are once we finally got under cover of The Ark.  
We spent just over three hours inside The Ark.  And we could've spent longer!  We took our time, and we did pretty much everything you can do.  We read everything, watched all the videos, participated in some of the interactive displays.  But there were still some things that we either went very quickly through or skipped, especially towards the end.  By the time we were finished, the rain was gone and the sun was out.  So we then spent about an hour outside The Ark at the petting zoo and just walking around.  I didn't take a whole lot of pictures because I was too busy just enjoying it and taking it all in.  Most of the inside pictures aren't great because of the dim lighting.

This carving caught my eye and it really beautiful, but you can't really tell that here.
This gives you an idea of how massive the structure is and how it was constructed on the inside.  My arms would not wrap all the way around those timbers.  They were HUGE.  (You can kind of tell here just how wet Hannah Kate was.)
Again, if you can, go!  Visit The Ark.  I'm telling you, it will radically change your perspective on a lot of things!
So that picture I mentioned earlier of the ark and all the animals squished in there?  That seems to be the most common visual of the Biblical account of Noah and the ark.  And that's one of the things I've always thought . . . I've just always thought it was probably super crowded in that boat with little room to move around . . . and how miserable it must've been to be cooped up in there with all those stinky, noisy animals for a whole year!  But now I realize that probably wasn't the case at all.  Once I actually saw the reality of how big those measurements are and then walked through all three levels of the structure, I realized that it probably wasn't as crowded in there as I thought.  I mean, it's just MASSIVE in size.  MASSIVE.  And there was plenty of room - even extra room! - for everybody, both men and animals!

Y'all already know how much I love color-coded, organized folders and how I pack my family for vacation and camp (with clearly labeled ziplocks for each day).  So I LOVED how organized everything was on The Ark!  There was a place for everyone and everything.  There was a specific plan and system for storing food and water (remember, they were in the thing for a year).  There was even a system for the removal of human and animal waste (you know, tee-tee and poop)!  So perhaps it wasn't as smelly in there after all!  You know, just because there was a lack of technology and invention in Bible times doesn't mean they weren't smart or sophisticated or learned.

This was one of my favorite visuals in The Ark.

And here are a couple of examples of "storage."  Again, it was just HUGE in there!

So how in the world did all the animals fit in there?  How in the world was a boat even big enough for all the animals?  And just HOW MANY animals were in there?  All of these questions and more are answered as you move through the different exhibits inside The Ark.  I was in awe of the amount of research and study that has gone into getting this right as much as possible and aligned with God's Word.  Again, I learned even MORE about God's instructions to Noah and the state of creation in Noah's day and time.  

During my BSF study of the account of the ark in the book of Genesis, there was a huge emphasis on the door of the ark.  The door.  There was only one door into the ark, and the only people who escaped and survived the devastating flood waters were those who walked through that door and into the ark.  So when we walked around the corner and saw this rendering of THE DOOR, I was speechless.  Again.
The door is a picture of Jesus.  Even way back in those early chapters in Genesis, we see Jesus.
I am still absolutely fascinated by the Biblical account of creation and our Creator God.  I absolutely loved this visual.
I don't know.  When we were there, this vantage spot really showed the magnitude of the structure.  But I don't think this picture captures that at all.
Like I said earlier, it was a perfectly gorgeous day when we stepped off the ark.  I can't even begin to imagine how Noah must've felt the day he finally left the ark!
I had tremendous expectations for this visit.  And, can I just tell you, The Ark EXCEEDED all of my expectations!  I truly believe I could go back and spent another four hours there, and I would still feel the same way, I'd still learn something new that I never knew before.

Again, it's been difficult to really articulate this part of our trip and our visit here.  You just have to go and experience it for yourself!  But there is one thing that has really stuck with me, that's really been impressed upon my heart after seeing The Ark.

One man, y'all.  One man.  God used ONE MAN to build this massive, bigger-than-life boat that saved his family and the future of all humanity.  You can watch a time-lapse video of the construction of the structure in Kentucky.  It's the largest timber-framed structure in the world.  It's, no doubt, an architectural and engineering wonder.  And, yet, all those years ago without the aid of fancy computer programs and cranes and engineering and modern technology, a man named Noah simply OBEYED GOD and built, according to God's perfect instruction and plan, a big ole boat.  Oh, how tired he must've gotten.  And, I mean, what he was doing wasn't exactly popular.  Everyone else thought he was nuts.  I'll bet he didn't have a whole lot of friends.  And, not only that, but Noah probably didn't even have a concept of rain or understand what rain even was because the Bible tells us that, prior to that time, the earth was watered by a mist that came up from the ground (Genesis 2:6).  So, rain?  Water falling from the sky?

And, yet, Noah built an ark.  Just like God told him to.

Noah obeyed God.  And, as a result of his obedience, God gave him exactly what he needed in order to do what God had called him to do, something that must've seemed to Noah seemingly impossible.  God not only provided Noah with everything he needed to complete the task of building the ark, but God also equipped Noah to do the work.

There is NOTHING too big for my God.  Nothing.

That situation that I'm facing right now, the one that just feels like it's going to drown me . . . it's not impossible for God.  It's not too big for Him.  And I don't have to figure it out. I don't have to plan it out.  God has already done that.  He has a plan.  All He asks is that I obey.  He's got this.

"I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
and made me bold with strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,
when they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and Your right hand will save me.

***The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;***

Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands."
~Psalm 138