Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Surprise Vacation

This is our all time favorite vacation. Dad and I planned this trip but did not tell anyone – not the kids, not any family members – where we were going. We gave the kids maps and had them track our stops and make guesses about our destination. We drove for 2 ½ days – Maggie had it narrowed down to two places and one of them was right, but we didn’t confirm anything!

We drove straight up from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska during Tornado season. I do not recommend this! As we traveled we heard weather reports of tornados hitting the areas the night before or storms approaching the next day. We personally did not see a drop of rain.

We first saw the Badlands. The best part about this National Park is that you can walk all over the place and touch the formations. We explored several hours on the way and on the way back. FRitW loved the “pinchy mountains”.

Next we found our cabin in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We saw buffalo, mountain goats, Pronghorns, deer, and wild donkeys. But guess what the boys watched out the window all week? Tractors! Because we chose to travel on the first open week of the season, every place we visited was making repairs.

we rode a steam train

saw many angles of Mount Rushmore

"blew up" a few mountains - in the museum at Mount Rushmore, when you push the plunger a video of the carving of the mountain with explosive plays - The little guys loved this!

pinched a president's nose

drove the entire Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway with it’s piggytail bridges and tunnels hewn out of rock

played on the playground

sniffed pine trees - they smell like vanilla - seriously!

got our Junior Ranger Badges

and hung out around the cabin

It was cool and relaxing and quiet and the best part? The kids actually liked not knowing where we were going!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Education Vacation

This vacation included some Texas History, Political Science, American History, Biology, and Astronomy (well sort of...).

We took a long weekend in February and got away for a few days. We headed first to San Antonio for a trip to the Alamo. We had been once before, but were surprised at how hard it was to visualize the battlefield. So, this time, we did a little reading and printed out a map or two before going to the site. So... here is the Alamo we all think of:

but we learned that the cute little curvy top that is the iconic Alamo shape didn't even exist at the time of the battle. It was added years later to make it more attractive as a historical site. This building was actually a safe place during the battle and the few survivors, women and children, were found in one of it's rooms.

Next we headed to Houston for a little American History. We visited the Battleship Texas which was commissioned in 1912 and served in both World Wars. We climbed all over the ship and went as high as we could go and as deep inside as we could go. This is such a fun place to visit - I am always amazed at how much of the ship you can access.
(This picture is so funny! from l to r is FRitW, Maggie, and MT. FRitW kept complaining that the sun was in his eyes, so Kirk who is holding him up put his arm out to shade his eyes and we love that it looks like a huge salute!)

The Battleship Texas faces the San Jacinto Monument, so we headed back into Texas History with a ride to the top of the monument. San Jacinto was the battle that turned the war for Texas Independence in Texas' favor. Here is where the battle cry, "Remember the Alamo!" began. This monument is unbelievably huge. The star on top is 34 feet tall and sits atop a 570 foot tall monument. The elevator takes you to a viewing area just below the star and the view is amazing!

The limestone steps
have shells embedded in them

From the top we noticed a path that wandered into a wetland marsh and decided to follow the path. The boardwalk lead to viewing stations and we saw several birds and frogs. MT also saw an airplane!

The next day we attended a political rally. This was a first for us but a great experience. We spent a lot of time waiting in line to get into the building, more time trying to get a good view, then some time catching confetti and waiting in line to get out of the parking lot.

We spent our final day at NASA. This was a fabulous place! Dad and I remembered visits from childhood, but things have changed! We started with a tram ride. The little guys loved this - they were convinced we were riding a train. The ride lasted an hour and a half and we saw everything from mission control to mockups of the space station and shuttle (with actual astronauts practicing for a mission!) to an immense rocket.

After the tram ride we played in the museum part of NASA. Dad, Maggie, and FRitW piloted an Apollo capsule,

Dad was a somber astronaut, 

Maggie was a grinning astronaut,

All four kids tried on the space helmets and explored yet another space shuttle mockup.

Finally, we learned that the squirrels we like to feed in Austin, don't like cold weather. We walked all over the grounds of the capital looking for those elusive creatures!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Have How Long to Pack???

I'll start with an accidental vacation. On rare occasions Dad has had to work out of state. When that happens we try to tag along. This particular time almost didn't happen because we only had 24 hours notice that Dad would be headed to Colorado and it was 2 days before Halloween and MT was just days away from turning 1 year old. We knew that Dad would not make it home in time for the first birthday, so we cancelled everything and headed out.

Dad drove his work vehicle and we followed him for the first 8 hours to his parent's home in West Texas. He went on from there, but we stayed with the intention of recuperating a day before moving on. But, plans were changed when he found out that the job had been rescheduled and he had the next 3 days off. We immediately packed and got back on the road. We drove until late and stopped in New Mexico. Starting early the next morning, we met up with him around noon near Durango. That is such a beautiful drive!

We were so glad in the end that we went, because he was in Colorado for 2 weeks!

We saw gorgeous mountains

Stood at the Four Corners - Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah

We visited Mesa Verde National Park

MT learned to walk and turned ONE!

We also visited many other Indian village ruins


Monday, June 21, 2010

Announcing Vacation Week

I seem to have taken a blog vacation lately! I have been too busy to post regularly and this week our family is taking a real vacation week so I thought I would proclaim it Vacation Week on my blog!

Last week, at work, my husband - Dad - was preparing to be off for a week and a coworker commented that vacations are overrated and not really much fun and another guy spoke up and said - Not their family's vacations - they do the most incredible things!

I thought that was a pretty big compliment, because our vacations generally include lots of together time, lots of historical places, lots of walking and very little "excitement". His comment gave me the idea of posting about a few of our past vacations while we enjoy our current vacation. I hope you enjoy our adventures this week!

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