November 30, 2010

Georgia/Alabama/Tennessee vacation

The weekend of October 23rd we did the unheard of- an impromptu mini vacation. The words "impromptu" and "baby" don't go together too well, so we haven't had many of these during the last seven or so years. Elizabeth is big enough to hack it now.

Originally the plan was just to go to Berry for the day to see an intercollegiate horse show. Some of our camp horses are being used by Kennessaw State for the school year, and the horses and two of our former camp staff were going to be in the show. Any excuse to go to Berry is a good one for me, especially if horses are involved. The day before we left James called WinShape to see if there was any way we could use a cabin for the night, and they graciously let us have one that was available. 

Naturally, I took ZERO pictures of the horse show or the cabin. The show was fun and it was cool to see our horses and staffers compete. I rode on the Equestrian Team at Berry so it brought back fun memories for me. Now they have a wonderful indoor arena and a good many improvements to the stable facility.  We rode in the hot sun, the cold wind, the rain...barefooted, uphill both ways back in my day. I was seriously itching for a horse to ride that day, as I spent hours and hours and hours enjoying the Berry campus from the back of a horse during college and WinShape days.  

I did get out the camera for a quick photo shoot at the end of the day, after the show and before we went to town for dinner at Chili's. (Might I add there was also no Chili's within a 60 mile radius back then!) Berry has made some incredible improvements to a lot of campus in the past (gulp) fourteen years. It's hard to believe it could get better, it was pretty great when I was there.

 This past year they added an elaborate sitting area outside the cafeteria. If I was a Berry student I would sit here a lot.

 Elizabeth would too, apparently.

I didn't get pictures of the wrought iron tables and chairs and sitting areas below this waterfall. Perfect outdoor dining.

This building is next to it, which used to be a big patch of woods when I was a student. Now it's The Cage, astate-of-the-art athletic facility. We had a not-state-of-the-art gym that smelled like socks and b.o. with two stair steppers you had to wait in line for. It did have a pool though, and I lived in a dorm right across the street from it. I was too lazy to change clothes there after enjoying a swim and would often dart across the street in a sopping wet towel in the dead of winter. Good times!

 Uh, okay.

One of Amelia's freakier talents. She's so fast.

We got up Sunday morning and went to Waffle House for breakfast. Larry, one of our Camp Skyline directors, met us for breakfast. After that we headed out to Skyline up in Mentone, Alabama. We wanted to show the kids where we used to live and work. We were there the first four years of our marriage, and we wouldn't trade living in a town of 600 for anything. It was quaint and quirky and perfect for young marrieds like us. No social life to be found, but plenty of outdoor activities and lots of time and opportunity for bonding. While visiting Skyline we got to see Mr. Edward who is an owner and the one who hired us way back in '97. Skyline was founded in 1947 back when camps only built cabins as basic shelter with screen windows. Now all of the cabins have been updated and are really nice, and there are several new additions as well, including a new horse barn. They are in the process of putting in a nice, big pool to replace the small one that is freezing cold under the trees and so close to the river that it occasionally gets flooded with river water. I was so excited to be there that naturally, I took ZERO pictures again.

Mentone has been without rain for some time, so when we took the kids to nearby Desoto Falls which is a huge canyon with an impressive waterfall...there was no water. Oh well!

 The dam above the waterfall backs up Little River (which runs through camp several miles upstream and is used for swimming and canoeing), and normally has a nice waterfall going over the top of it as well. Here's the dam. No waterfall. I didn't even bother taking pictures of Desoto Drip because it was sad looking.

By this time we had decided to stay another night and extend our vacation. The Davidson's kids were out of school that Monday so they headed up to Chattanooga and we met them there later in the day. I hadn't packed for another night, so we made do with the clothes we brought.

We wanted to spend the rest of Sunday showing the kids a cavern. Unfortunately the first one we tried to visit was closed on Sundays, so we went ahead and drove the 45 minutes on up to Chattanooga. We ended up at Racoon Mountain, which was really close to the place James and Shannon went camping and Jeeping awhile back. The kids enjoyed touring the cave.

 I hadn't been there since I was a kid.

 Some of the formations had names. This one was the ice cream sundae, or something like that. I think it looks more like a thumbs up. A melty thumbs up.

 The kids thought the cavern was really cool. I remember being amazed on a cave tour as a kid.

Outside they played on the rocks for awhile. We had been underneath some of these.

 Here we go again with the Avery weirdness. Love this kid.

 Cheesing it up for the camera.

 Yes dahling, you may take my picture now.

 Love my sister!

We found our peeps at the Staybridge Inn in Chattanooga. We didn't tell the kids until we were almost there. They were so excited! (Which is why we didn't tell them until just before, we didn't want to hear it all day.) We went out for dinner then back to the hotel for the kids to swim in borrowed swimsuits which Jenny was thoughtful enough to pack. Although considering the lack of clothing we brought with us, it might not have hurt to have them swim in their least they'd have been cleaner!

Monday morning we headed into town for a day at the Tennessee Aquarium. On the river were parked perfect replicas of the Nina and Pinta, which you could tour. We opted for a photo in front of the Nina instead. It was free.

Back in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...and I have a newfound appreciation for him and his gang after seeing the size of the ships. And the lack of GPS. Wow.

James and I hadn't been to the aquarium in over 10 years. They've added quite a bit to it since then.

Outside there is a waterfall made out of steps. The D.'s say it's a fun place to come play in the summer. Guess we'll just have to come back...especially since it was only a few more dollars for a family the size of ours to get a yearly pass to the aquarium, so we did.

 I think it's just plain irresponsible not to have a lifeguard on duty. What if a kid slips on a step and goes under? What then?

 I'll admit it was the no diving rule that really had me bummed. Such an inviting spot to dive, but noooo....

 Avery trains a fish.

The stingrays were fun. You could also pet the tiny sharks that lived in this pool.

 Stingrays are friendly and like to wave.

 They gave us shrimp to feed the stingrays. That was cool.

 They suck the shrimp out of your fingers.

 Avery was brave enough to feed one.

And then jerk his hand away. They are kinda weird.

Raise your hand if you've seen Happy Feet. These are Macaroni penguins, and in Happy Feet they're hilarious. In real life they don't talk with spanish accents but they're still pretty entertaining to watch. We stood there for a long time.

Elizabeth thought they were great. I'm not sure she didn't think she was watching a giant TV screen.

 The elusive Shannonfish.

 Watching the penguins.

 Thank goodness for that shark cage! That was close!

 So, Daddy, if you could be a fish, which fish would you be?

Lotsa kids.

 We got to see divers in the tank feeding fish and sharks.

 I love how stingrays look like they're always smiling.

 Anyone want to pet a sturgeon?

 Every tour ends in the gift shop. All in all an awesome day at the aquarium.  And to make it even better, we counted it as a school day!

You can't go to Chattanooga without a visit to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

And just to make sure the kids are really tired out for the drive home, you wonder aloud who would win a race to the end of the rail yard....

Shannon stopped before the race was over because Avery started crying because he couldn't keep up.  Isn't he a good brother?
Little bit of a late breakaway at the gate...

We grabbed some dinner before heading to our cars. We ate outside. Thoughtful of us, eh? Especially since it was early evening and Elizabeth had walked probably two miles in the aquarium with no nap all day.

 Row, row, row your (brick) boat.

It almost looks like a double date, except for the kid in the picture and the kid's cup on the table. And the fact that a ten year old was the photographer.

The trip was a blast and we're looking forward to doing it again. We made it back late that evening and jumped back into the normal groove the next day. I use the word "normal" loosely here.

Every time we're back in our old neck of the woods I think about how happy we could have been living in the northwest corner of the state long term. Rome is a great town, Berry is a gift, and though we wouldn't have wanted to raise children in Mentone, we love the Lookout Mountain area. Aside from the obvious draw we have here of our love, Strong Rock, we know the friends we have here are treasures, and we are grateful for the blessings they are.

And now, just because it's impossible to post a blog entry without one of these pictures....

Yes, he lost another one.