We're so glad you joined us!

Here we are – kids, dogs and all! Thanks for visiting our page! We're hoping that you will enjoy hearing about our travels and experiences as a family. We intend for this blog to share more than just travel journals, but also insights and lessons learned during our daily adventures. Please share your comments and come back often! * update * as of August 2010, we finished our journey, so new entries to this site will be rare. Linda's starting a new personal blog here. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Clarks take Vicksburg

Leaving Florida behind and bound for Texas, we planned a stop in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This made for a good travel distance in the right direction and allowed an important historical enhancement for our previous study of the Civil War. We had some difficulty finding an available RV park due to various events in the area. There was space at Ameristar which is a park associated with a nearby hotel and casino on the Mississippi river. With some reservations about camping amongst the gamblers, we headed for our site. We found the facilities to be good and very reasonably priced, (I suppose it is like rooms in casinos where they keep the price low hoping you will stay there and gamble with them). They even give you two free passes for the breakfast buffet and the casino. The boys were astonished at the scope of this thing, every breakfast item they had ever even heard of was there in bulk quantities. It was fun to watch them with big eyes wanting to try it all, but the stomach only has so much room.

Our main purpose was to explore the Vicksburg National Military Park and try to get a sense of this major battle of the Civil War. The park was amazing. The visitor center provided exhibits and displays that gave great background information. We learned details on the war leading up to the battle, the weapons and strategy of the time as well as insights into what it was like to live through this siege for Union or Confederate troops and the towns people caught in the middle of this struggle.

Armed with the information from the center and a purchased audio cd guide, we ventured out on a 16 mile driving tour of the main battle site. The whole area is well preserved and thoroughly documented with signs and monuments that describe each groups contribution and the many engagements and skirmishes and how these affected the outcome of the battle. Many cannon batteries were perched at locations of the original battle engagements and much of the landscape bore the visible scars that made up the defense trenches and impacts by bombardment attacks.

This battle centered on control of the Mississippi River and part of the fighting was on the water as well. The park includes the Cairo, an "ironsides" union ship that was sunk by a confederate mine detonated by remote from the shore. This salvage, brought up from the muddy river bottom in the 1960's, was a treasure of information. The ship and the museum of artifacts are wonderful windows into elements and activities of the Civil War that are not covered in other studies of this time.

The documentation of this battle extends beyond the park and you are led into the city where more of the story is told. So much of this city seems frozen in time around to the battle and this war. Exploring this event in this place has had a profound impact on our family. It has given us a much richer view of this battle and this war that so much defines what our country is now. The number of lives lost on both sides of the Vicksburg campaign by far exceeds many battles and wars fought since in our nation's history. While sobering to think upon, we look forward to visiting more Civil War battle areas as we cross the country and further expand our understanding of this period of our history.

We left Vicksburg thankful for what we learned and experienced in this whole trip. Our next stop is a return to Texas to rest and reload for a journey west. We thank God for leading us on this wonderful journey and the great plan He has for us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stormy but Fun Finish to Florida

We said goodbye to the piney woods of Otter Springs and traveled across the panhandle of Florida for an exploration of the Pensacola area. There were no problems on the drive and we comfortably settled into the Pensacola KOA. While most KOA's are a safe bet for parking space and amenities, this one was very nice. Everything was first class, with a big heated pool, large playground and free on site miniature golf, the boys classified it as "cool".

As confident as I am about this adventure being God's plan for our family, I sometimes wonder if I am in the right place at the right time. While staying in this great location, we watched as the weather turned stormy on three consecutive nights. These were wicked storms with tornado warnings, damaging winds and large hail heading straight toward us. We huddled in our camper with our slides pulled in, weather alert radio on (this salvaged from our Corpus Christi hurricane kit) and our eyes affixed to the weather channel. Each night we watched as the worst of the storms would turn, just before getting to the camp ground, and move north or south of us pummeling areas just a few miles away. Each morning we would get out and find that almost all of the other campers were sitting axle deep in water and our site was high and dry. It strikes me that God speaks, (and assures us), in strange ways.

The Pensacola area had many interesting things to offer us. Cory was just finishing a history study of World War I and we were here in a huge military area. We first traveled over to Fort Walton Beach and visited the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base. This wonderful exhibition presented a rich history of our country's leadership in developing air weapons and delivery systems. Of course the boy were intrigued with the planes, bombs and missiles, but Linda and I were taken by the effort and dedication of our military in their work of protecting our country while focusing on weapons that will minimize the collateral damage to the innocent. The more we study, the more proud we become of our country.

Next day, we went to the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Station Pensacola. It was Huge! There was aircraft from all periods and of all types with historical information that was wonderful to enhance Cory's study of W W I and W W II as well as the more later challenges we have faced as the benevolent superpower for modern world. This museum is a jewel for home education and fills a huge void in history left by most of the mainstream texts. As with the Air Force Armament Museum, we all came away with a swelling pride in our nation and the wonderful men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country.

Of course we could not pass through the Florida panhandle without enjoying the snow white sand and blue-green water of this area of the Gulf of Mexico. It was cool after all the storm fronts coming through and very windy, giving rise to goosebumps on the skin outside the swimsuit. They were flying two warning flags on the beach as well. One flag was for dangerous undertow and the other was for hazardous sea life (Portuguese Man-of-War). Undaunted, we marched forward onto the beach determined to experience this wonderful seascape. We wet our feet (but not too deep), and kept a close eye on the water for sea creatures. The boys buried each other in the sand and worked hard on a sand castle. In spite of the challenges presented, we really enjoyed the experience as well as the drive around the sound to get there and back.

All things considered, we considered this a great closing to our Florida adventure and a true blessing to our family.