Field Trip – Dismals Canyon, AL

WARNING – This post was written a while ago (maybe a year or so?) and never published. The prices listed may have changed. [OK… I looked it up, and it’s now $12/adult, $8.75 for kids, with the $1 add on for picnicking on their back deck.]

A friend and I decided recently that we needed a road trip. The weather’s been beautiful and she needed a break, so we packed the kids up, loaded the car, and headed to Dismals Canyon.

Dismals Canyon is a privately owned property with camping, hiking, a grill, and a gift shop area. The admission rate was $10 for ages 12 and up, and $6.75 for ages 11 and under. Those are for self guided tours (hiking and a map).

Since we arrived in a day when the grill was opened, picnicking was “prohibited”. As a conservation minded person, I get the desire to limit trash and I agree that people can be slobs and disregard their personal clean up, but banning picnics and posting that all my bags could be searched was really off-putting to me.  If you arrive when the chill is closed you can picnic – for $1/person… to eat the food you brought…on their deck… Hmmm.  I wasn’t impressed.

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Overall the site was really, really beautiful. The day we went the weather was (as you can see!) perfect. We did about a 1.5 mile hike which was perfect for us. It left us a lot of time for exploring, relaxing, and hanging out and talking.

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I took a ton of pictures!!

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It really was a great break from our normal homeschool routine. I think I would go back again, but I might consider a different location with a more liberal picnic policy if I had a large group.

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Are there any good day trips near you that you’d recommend?

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Fenway Park Tour

We recently had to head up to Boston for a funeral when we were up there I tried to squeeze in a couple fun things for the kids. One of the fun events was the walking tour of Fenway Park.  We went in the middle of January so they’re only a couple other people and people in our tour group.  It was also freezing and raining so probably not the best day to go! LOL! Weather aside it was still really cool.

The tour was $20 for adults,($17 for a military discount), and lasted about an hour. Our tourguide was really nice and explained lots of interesting things about the park and its history. I’m an old-school Red Sox fan so I really enjoyed getting to see the Hall of Fame and some of the old baseballs and other memorabilia.


 I think my favorite part was getting to sit up on the green monster and getting to sit in the seat in the press box.


If you’re any type of sports fan or history buff, the tour is definitely worthwhile.


One thing I would warn you about is if you go in the winter, the gift shop across the street closes at 5 PM. Sadly we missed a great shopping opportunity (but saved a ton of money!). Tours start on the hour, so just plan to shop early!

Week  In Review : 14 October 2016

Wow.  It’s been just about FOREVER since I’ve posted a Week in Review!! I needed a blog break,  but I miss writing and I miss getting to look back on what we’ve accomplished,  so I hope to stay consistent. 
Last Week:

We took a sweet field trip last week to…Germany.  It was awesome. We traveled Tuesday,  and returned home Sunday.  We visited Frankfurt,  Heidelberg,  and Mainz. Big is taking German 1 this year so we rationalized that it really was educational! 

School this Week: 

This week was a SERIOUS buckle down week. We started tired,  but we had to press on. With robotics,  travel,  more travel,  and a huge move upcoming the next 4 weeks are critical . 

This week both kids (a little grudgingly)  did full math lessons each day.  With that we rocked out  9 school days of math this week.  Since both kids are in upper level math (algebra 2, and trig) the pace isn’t a big deal.  We mostly go half speed for pacing and to not make our days last forever.  Both kids killed their tests,  so we’ll keep this up until the week of November 13.

Online classes (Big – German 1 and filmmaking on Landry Academy; BJU distance learning Chemistry,   Coursera Academic Writing; Little – English,  programming on Landry  Academy )  went well this week,  too.  The kids were well prepared before we left,  so it was mostly attending.  I’m super pleased with how the classes are going this semester. They’re well paced (chemistry is easily AP level,  so that one’s tough), and the kids are learning a ton. 

I think we’re making it with other classes.  We may have a little home work over the weekend, but such is life. I feel like homeschooling high school is a little like whack a mole – and keeping the moles at bay is tough!

Other Stuff:

Little’s birthday was Tuesday.  With our need to buckle down we didn’t take the day off.  Tomorrow he and his buds are having a video game binge day.  I think they’ll have a blast. I’ve purchased a load of requested junk for them…

Tonight the kids have robotics.  Our team made it through the state competition with an overall second  place so they need to prepare for the regional cometition.  Big is preparing for the team videos,  and Little is a spotter and strategy guy.  They’re thrilled and excited about the next level. 

The Move:

Countdown for Big Box Week (when we move the junk to the rental)… 4 weeks from Monday. That’s move (and school in the car) week.  Yikes.  

Praises:

* Amazing trip to Germany.  Great travel.  Fun memories. 

* Time with bible study ladies before we move.  I can’t think on it or I’ll cry. 

* Great school week. 

* Progress on the garage clean out.  Yikes. That’s huge. 

* Amazing fall weather in the Deep South.  Sweatshirts in the morning,  80 for a high temp. 
How was your week?

Mardi Gras – New Orleans – 2016

Last year I took Big to the Mardi Gras parades in Mobile AL with a friend. We had a blast. The weather was great, the crowds weren’t insane, and we got tons of swag.

This year we decided we’d up our game…NOLA.

Before y’all think I’m a wretched parent for taking my teen daughter to New Orleans, please know that NOLA and I have history. I lived there from 1995 to 2000. I met and married DH there (who, incidentally, grew up in a suburb of NOLA). I have been back at least annually, and took the kids last year (among other trips there).

I love New Orleans. Love it. It’s a part of my heart, really. Which may seem like a lot coming from a Jesus loving, non drinking, evangelical Christian.

So, I don’t think it was a stretch to go to a couple of parades in less icky parts of the city and enjoy the atmosphere.

We, of course, started at Cafe du Monde. Beignets. Frozen cafe au lait. Swoon.

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We got there EARLY expecting a crowd. No crowds at 7, yet. But sunrise reflecting on the cathedral, quiet, street sweepers, and locals… It felt like my old NOLA. I remembered my love for the city as we ate breakfast and walked Royal Street. Really, New Orleans is an gem.

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Rousses. There are a few in the city. Go. Buy local things. Like iced coffee concentrate. It’s amazing.

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Jackson Square… before the crowds. It’s beautiful.

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We needed some place to sit after the early wake up, cold temps, and walking so we headed to Starbucks on Canal Street to chill. It was a great pick with hot tea and comfortable chairs.

I decided to head out and look for our parade spot and decided on the neutral ground on Canal. I took a seat about 10:15 for the 11 am parade start.

In terms of parade swag, we had a great spot. We were right after a turn and right on the corner. We met really nice people on our corner, though closer to parade time we did need to defend our front row status a little. It was a hard balance, being kind and defending the spot we stood there for 3 hours to secure.

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The parade was great. Unfortunately, it started late and that coupled with colds, no sleep, and a few other factors, we only made it through one parade. We had planned on Tucks and Iris, but only made it through Iris.

Having been to both Mobile and New Orleans parades, two of three voted for a return to Mobile over New Orleans. I might vote for New Orleans, but with some major changes. The Mobile voters preferred the smaller crowds, the family friendly atmosphere, and the casual feel of the scenes. New Orleans definitely had better swag, but the trade off was some seriously drunk people nearby, some inappropriate crowd wear (really), crowds, expense (parking was insane), and traffic. Seriously  – insane traffic (which honestly, was partly my fault and planning because if we had stayed for Tucks it would have been better).

My revised New Orleans plan…

  1. Get there early afternoon on Friday. Sleep well.
  2. Skip Cafe Du Monde, sleep in, hit PJs for coffee enroute, and set up for the parade around 11.
  3. Park in Audobon Park or somewhere west of Napoleon.
  4. Watch the parade in the Garden District. Anywhere west of Lee Circle would work. Don’t forget chairs and swag bags. A cooler or thermos wouldn’t be wasted!
  5. Suck up the tired and hit all the parades available for one day. Push it. Wear it out.
  6. Sleep over Saturday night. Sleep in late Sunday.
  7. Travel home Sunday.

Big’s Plan:

  1. Do Mardi Gras in Mobile. Stay Friday night, hit a parade or two Saturday, and go home.
  2. Then, go to New Orleans in around April when the weather is perfect. Spend a few days. Walk around. Ride the street cars, eat at all your favorite places, tour the WW2 Museum. Go to other museums. Take a cooking class. Relax. Don’t rush. Avoid crowds.

 

I think Big has a great idea there! Sadly, New Orleans didn’t show well this weekend. All that people who love New Orleans defend against (“Why would I go there? It’s loud/smelly/drunk people are everywhere/there are falling down drunks everywhere/people are rude/traffic is awful….”) was out in full force. It’s a shame because New Orleans is a beautiful city with a great heart, and in the past I don’t remember Mardi Gras being so glaringly negative. Maybe it was and I didn’t see it until I was looking through the lens of having a 14 year old with me. Either way, I still love the city, and I would do Mardi Gras again – but I would likely use Big’s plan. I think it’s a great one.

 

 

 

Texas

Over Thanksgiving our family made a road trip to Austin, Texas. It was a blast. We have family in Austin and it’s always great to get to spend time with them.

During the road trip (and OBVIOUSLY pre 100 Days of Real Food challenge…) we tried out some new dining spots…

SMASHBURGER was a good stop. The burger was fresh and yummy. The fries weren’t my favorite. I think that’s a good thing since looking at this picture might depress me otherwise. LOL!!

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE REI‘s stance on Black Friday. We shopped there because it’s an awesome store, and we wanted to vote with money. Go REI!!

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I picked up a new cookbook at the Book People in Austin. If you’re in Austin and you like books – GO!! It’s an awesome independent book store.

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A go-to stop for us whenever we can make one… IN n OUT Burger! Big and I made a stop on Black Friday when we went out to grab some deals. It is ALWAYS fun to chill with Big and we had a great time eating greasy burgers.

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I’m hoping next year our review will be different. Lots of veggie places. Lots of locally sourced, organically raised meals. Fewer burgers. More whole wheat. I’m actually looking forward to it!!

Tuscaloosa, AL – A COOL Teen Stop

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While road tripping through Alabama recently, the kids spied this SWEET jungle gym structure. They called for a stop, and my friend and I (with 4 squirmy teens in the car), gladly obliged.

 

If you are in Tuscaloosa AL – STOP. It’s awesome!!!! The structure is in Snow Hinton Park (on 82 – near the mall) and at 38 feet the slide is the tallest in the Southeast. It’s free, and so worth the time to stop. My kids LOVED it. It’s such a cool tween/teen thing to do. I high recommend a stop! (They loved it so much that I had to text our scoutmaster – it’s an awesome teen boy leg stretching break for scout troops!)

Tuskegee Airmen National Park – Tuskegee, AL

On a recent road trip through Alabama, the kids, some friends and I made a stop at the Tuskegee Airman National Park. I have wanted to go here FOREVER, but it never really ended up being near a destination or on a route. So, when we were headed to Auburn University (travel review on that one, soon!!) we planned a little extra time in our trip to stop and tour the aviation museum.

I WISH we had planned more time.

It was awesome. I can’t recommend stopping here enough.

First – logistics. You can check it out on your maps app – but the park is about a half an hour from Montgomery, AL. There are lots of places there to eat and stay. The museum is free, and while there is handicap parking and access – if walking is tough you may want to take a wheel chair along. There may be more handicap access that I didn’t see – so please call ahead and check for more details. (I was thinking when I was there, “Man, if we had my handicapped parents here this would be a HAUL.”)

After arriving and checking out the airfield from the parking lot, you head down a hill to one of two hangars that house displays, movies, interviews, and much more.  I’d plan at least a couple of hours to really explore the museum.

 

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I love maps and visuals. These were excellent.

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P-51. Really? What can be better???

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Big’s favorite. Maybe because she’s flown in one!! (Not that I’m jealous… OK. I am.)

 

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A fuzzy Cub. Get it?

 

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DD did the Junior Ranger Program – which took here less than an hour. For the 6-10 crowd, I’d plan on a couple of hours.

 

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My favorite interview, bar none, was the one with LTCOL Alexander Jefferson. As I listened to his stories I was enthralled. He completely captivated me, making me laugh and cry. All I could think was , “Wow. This man is a fighter pilot.” And trust me, I KNOW fighter pilots! LOL! I also thought, “Wow, he would be such great friends with my Father in Law!”. Unfortunately, when we got to the store they had just shut down, so I couldn’t purchase his book there. As soon as I got home I bought his book, Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and POW.  I planned on giving it to DH for Christmas, but I couldn’t wait. He started it, then I started it. I LOVE this book and can’t wait for a little more time to finish it. It will be mandatory reading for my kids.

 

Like pretty much anything with WW2, we need to take the time NOW to learn the stories of the brave men and women who fought for our freedom. In my humble opinion, the Tuskegee Airmen were amazing men who deserve our study and ultimately our respect and appreciation. I cannot even put into words how remarkable these men were – brave, strong, smart, and patriotic – willing to die for a country that treated them so inhumanely. This museum is a moving, stirring, and humbling place.

 

Please, if you’re in Alabama. Make the trip. You won’t regret it.