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!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Linda's new thing

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all your works;
I muse on the work of your hands.
Ps 143;5

Now that we have settled in our home in Tennessee, I have noticed that I miss blogging. In different seasons of my life, journaling has been an invaluable experience and I suppose blogging is simply a more public version of doing just that. So, I'm going to sort out a new blog name and a link to it from here, for those that are interested enough to know snippets from my pea brain! As the busy-ness of Christmas preparations and celebration settle, everyone seems to reflect in preparation for turning the page on the 2010 calendar. In exploring thoughts about meditation and 'remembering the days of old', I came across the verse above and could not help reflecting back on the beginning of our RV journey across America.

God showed us a special verse while we were contemplating our new season as Craig's retirement approached two years ago. We had been praying about the opportunity of his retirement and what should we do within it. In our many discussions and prayers, the possibility of selling the house and travelling the country in an RV came to light. In some ways, we dared not think about it too much as it seemed unrealistic, too unorthodox and even frivolous. Yet, the idea did not fade and further research eliminated many of the arguments about the practicality of this venture. A strong feeling of anticipation took root in the both of us. Then, this verse appeared before us through two separate sources on the same day:

Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

Isa 43:19

My mother sent Craig a retirement card with the verse and the same verse appeared in our daily devotion book that we share each morning. Coincidence? We believe not.

We took that as confirmation that God did want us to take this journey and equipped with that knowledge, we joyfully proceeded with preparations - learning all that we could about RV's, campground facilities, and pricing RVs while we placed the house on the market. Lo and behold, the house sold 3 1/2 months after Craig's retirement in a declining market with houses on our street that had not sold after being being advertised for significantly more months and, in some cases, years.

December of 2008 brought the closing on the house, a flurry of 'normal' Christmas events such as piano recitals and play performances, moving preparations and much more significantly, Craig's father became critically ill in a small town in Missouri over 18 1/2 hrs away by car, 8-10 hrs by plane and rental car. Strapped by the schedule of vacating the house and moving our belongings to storage in our selected home base 400 miles away, Craig made plans to travel to Missouri as soon as we could get the moving van unloaded. His dad's condition improved, so Craig then made plans to travel the day after Christmas to stay with his father and prepare him for transition to assisted living. He spoke with his father on Christmas morning and all was well. Then, a couple of hours later, his brother called with news that dad had suddenly passed away.

Within the week, Craig and I travelled north to attend the funeral. We drove the 1200 miles in the large pickup we'd acquired for our RV plans. The familiar but somber drive had mostly memories of anticipation of family visits from the years past and also the difficult travels to monitor his mother's declining health and passing several years before. Such a very bittersweet journey that was poignant with symbolism of endings and beginnings.

As we grieved the loss of this loved one, we celebrated the prospect of joining these and other loved ones for eternity through the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The promise of that future grand reunion provides such great comfort when mourning the loss of the earthly life of loved ones!

In this reflective moment, during a season in which we celebrate God coming to earth, as the newborn babe Emmanuel, I can't help but also be reminded of His purpose - to make the sacrifice for the sins of man and all men through His death on the cross a mere 33 years later. I'm so thankful for all the blessings in our lives, most importantly the people in our lives. I'm immeasurably more thankful for Jesus' departure from His heavenly realm to purposefully dwell amongst men and complete God's covenant to make a way for us to live forever with Him.

Watch for a link to the new blog.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our table won't look like the famous Norman Rockwell image. As a matter of fact, we still don't have a table in our dining room. The one we had was damaged beyond repair in our move a couple of months ago. At the time, it was a very sad day. That big table was usually only used for festive occasions and represented many happy memories of gatherings of friends and family. I was so looking forward to planning and preparing dinners to gather around that table again after our 2 year adventure in the RV. I loved the time spent travelling and we have many happy (and a few not so happy) memories from that terrific journey. One thing that was quite impossible was to have a big dinner. The tiny oven and scant counter space was fine for our every day meal prep and I learned a lot about efficient space management! Special days like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all have entwined a special meal with some family traditions well established in our minds. I truly enjoy planning and preparing those special meals for my family. The clean-up, not so much, but my family - especially my husband, takes care of that for me (what a blessing!). So, the table being damaged was a temporary painful blow as it was so much more than a piece of furniture in my mind.

As part of the many things for which I am thankful, however, the realization that even that table was just a 'thing' and my very special memories are more about the people and more importantly the love for and from those people in my life is the treasure that I value.

As we sit down today around a fold-up table with a tablecloth thrown over, I will have so many rich blessings for which to be thankful to God:

  • God Himself, with His everlasting and ever plentiful provision for all our needs (spiritual, emotional, physical and material)
  • my husband - such an amazing blend of strong and sweet
  • my kids - each with their unique personalities that bring joy to my life
  • my family - most reliable in their ongoing support, not always for everything I do - but always there for me
  • my friends - wonderful companions in this life, whether near or far
  • my country - with its' own set of challenges and worries at the moment, but by far the country that provides us with liberty 'to pursue happiness'

So, whatever your table looks like on this day, however the meal turns out, no matter who wins the football game - it is my hope that pursuit of the 'perfect' Normal Rockwell table in the photo doesn't get in the way of being blessed by remembering what you have to be thankful for. I know that I am so much more thankful for this little fold-up table than I ever would have thought!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Losing weight (about 12,0000 lbs.!)

Long time, no post! We've been very, very busy. We looked in all kinds of nooks and crannies in Eastern TN for a home with a view of the mountains. We found plenty, but scared ourselves half to death on some of the climbing roads! We also found many that just didn't fit the foggy idea in our heads of our future home.

Finally, on a trip back from Nashville to Bristol, we scheduled an appointment to see a home near Crossville, TN. We loved it! It fit everything to a tee except for being on a quiet road. It's on a fairly active highway, but everything else was so perfect that we made an offer before the end of the day. Within 24 hours, the offer had been countered and we accepted the counter. Now, about a month later, we have closed on the property and look forward to moving in within a month or so. We've got a few hurdles to overcome, including getting our two storage units full of stuff from Texas to Tennesse. We remain in absolute awe of our God and His amazing blessings for us!

Now - about that title! Our 5th wheel has a gross vehicle weight of around 15, 500 lbs. We've loved travelling in it and have appreciated the space and conveniences that it provided for our family to dwell in while seeing all kinds of sights around the country. We remained comfortable in temperatures varying from 14 F to 105 F and enjoyed the enhancements of cooking in a well-equipped kitchen, showering with a decent amount of hot water, watching TV and movies, hauling our 4 bikes and 2 dogs all over the place, and laundering our clothes whenever needed. For our next season, however, we don't really require those conveniences and didn't want to deal with maintaining the trailer in storage for most of the weeks of the year. We decided to downsize and put a minimal amount of effort into selling the RV. Cory made a flyer that we left in a couple of RV Park offices, we posted advertisements in a couple of online RV forums and posted 'FOR SALE' signs on the trailer.

We had a couple of nibbles in the last month, but no offers. We were beginning to contemplate where we were going to put the thing after a couple of weeks when we will begin moving items to the house. As we headed out to do some shopping yesterday, we decided to drop in an RV showroom to browse smaller trailers and even pop-ups. We found a pop-up right away that was only slightly used and met our idea of how we might camp for up to a week or two. The sales staff was very attentive, as you might expect. When asked what our plans were, we chose to be brutally honest with them, expecting that they would not be interested in a trade in which they would have to fork over cash to us for the difference in our current, really large 5th wheel for the rather diminutive (by comparison) pop-up. There was the typical 'I'll go talk to the boss in the back room' series of events. We weren't expecting anything to come of it. Lo and behold, the offer came back in favorably. By favorable, we mean that they offered about what we hoped to gain in a FSBO (for sale by owner) arrangement. We lose about 12,000 extra lbs of trailer, that we don't need, and gain enough cash to help out with purchasing a 2nd vehicle or a tractor or something yet unseen for our new home!

Talk about our cup running over! Only one day after closing on our house, we couldn't have even come up with the idea that this could be handled so quickly and generously! We accepted the offer, made a deposit for the pop-up, and agreed for a representative to come back and verify the value of our 5th wheel.

Here's a link to our new camping buddy:


This post is not the dealer we're talking to, but they have some nice photos of the camper and it's exactly the same model.

Now, what say you about our God's ability to absolutely knock our socks off with His blessings that are above and beyond what we ask or even think?!? We are so amazingly blessed and hope our little story provides a testimony to you of how generous God can be in all the little (and big) details of our daily lives!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Now what?

We're complete with our journey...for now. We had a goal of 48 states in 2 years and we completed 47 states in 17 months. We found that each state has enough unique attributes and attractions to easily absorb at least a month, if not six. We do not want to dedicate that much of our time to travel in this season, so we will call this journey done. Our biggest disappointment? That we didn't figure out incorporating Utah! We will not rest until we return to the west and see that terrific state and it's unique beauty. But, we have not tarnished our desire for travel, as a matter of fact, this journey has whet our appetites for further journeys in states we have already visited and yes - return to Utah!

As of this writing, we still need to post pictures and a few paragraphs of our visit to West Virginia. On the heels of that trip, we began exploring eastern Tennessee as a prospective home site. We love all mountains and have been drawn to the beauty of the Smokies and the Appalachians. The state favors well economically with a reasonable cost of living and favorable tax laws for stretching our dollars further than some other areas. In case you are curious, other contenders for our home state included New Hampshire, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Although Texas holds a warm spot in our hearts, there are precious few mountains and they are in rather desolate areas of the state. Several of the states fell in priority as having laws that are unfriendly to home schools. States that assess income taxes, including retirement pensions also fell to a lower ranking. When I say ranking, I mean just that - we made a spread sheet! Imagine two engineers doing anything without a spread sheet!

We're continuing to pray and browse this beautiful state and all the property listings. We'll not enter much of our deliberations here, as we don't see that as fitting our intended purpose of the blog. As truly newsworthy events transpire, we will post here.

Thanks for reading our travel blog. We plan to review it at a future date and publish it for our own memoirs. It's been a terrific adventure and we likely will do a '17 months reflection' post. We're a little road weary and happy to move into a new season full of things we cannot see from here!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Smoky mountains round 2

Hello, it's Cory again. My parent's didn't have the courage to write this post, so I decided that I would take one for the team and tell it like it is.

We went back to the National Park yesterday. The weather was slightly rainy, so we decided instead of hiking to drive up to the highest point in the park to see the view.

The drive up was pretty, with all the flowers, streams and trees. We also saw some poor guy trudging up the mountain with a lawn mower (in the rain). On a slightly scarier note we also saw a car wrecked on the side of the road with windows that appeared to have been shot out with a shotgun.

Finally, we reached the top observation point. The bad thing about being really high up is that the most likely view is cloud. Which is exactly what we saw. So we decided to wait a bit and see if the cloud would blow over. While we were waiting, I was listening to the radio and looking around the parking lot. There weren't very many cars. Then, a guy got out of one of them and walked to the back (hang on, this story is actually going somewhere). He then took off his shirt and started rummaging around in the back. He came out wielding a bar of soap. Logically, I thought he was heading for the public bathrooms that were less than 50 yards away. Apparently, however, this guy has nothing whatsoever in common with logic. He walked around to the side of his car and started splashing himself with water from a puddle (he was standing in the rain, by the way. As if he wasn't wet enough). I ask myself why I kept on watching. Perhaps it was due to boredom. Perhaps I was just too shocked that this guy had no common sense. Whatever the reason, I will regret it forever. Why? Because after he finished splashing himself, he walked to the driver door, opened it, removed his shorts and threw them in (sadly, he was wearing no underwear). Screams echoed throughout the car as everyone ducked for cover, sheltering their eyes from the horrible hind end of Sir Showersalot. I will never get that image out of my head.

Once we were assured that the horrible scene was past and Mr. Free To Be Me was back in his car, we dared to look around once more. After a bit, the cloud did blow away a bit and the view cleared up slightly. Then it truly was a beautiful sight.

Again, I felt an odious and evil presence. My gaze was drawn back to the car of Mr. Mooner. Where just before the windows had been mercifully fogged up, there he was, cleaning them with his sock. I squealed and hit the floorboard again.

Needless to say, we did not linger on the peak. We may go back again today, and hopefully no one will get any ideas about taking a public shower.

Coragon, over and out.

"Blue moon. I saw you outside your car. Without a brain in your head. How very naked you are."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Smoky Mountains

We toured through Tennessee several months ago, but we didn't see the mountains in the northeastern portion of the state. We had two reasons: 1 - snow was still hitting various parts of the country and we had seen quite a lot of it, 2 - we wanted to visit portions of Georgia and South Carolina before tornado season hit. We've been pleased with our planning in that regard but were anxious to return to one of the most beautiful sections of the country. We waited out the weekend crowds with necessary chores of laundry and checking out the layout of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The closest comparison we've seen to those areas is Branson, MO. A long strip of theaters and bizarre attractions line the main roads. Live musical performances, themed miniature golf courses, go kart tracks, 'Believe It or Not' venues and buffet restaurants all compete for your entertainment dollars. We're not planning on pursuing any of those and choose instead to focus on seeing the Smokies, specifically the national park. We've not been disappointed and are thankful that we can visit the park during the week when the crowds are a little smaller. We wove our way to do the auto tour of Cades Cove. A lot of folks visiting the park don't get out of their vehicle, but we truly don't believe you get the best appreciation without a walk or two. Our destination was about midway around the drive with a 5 mile round trip hike to see one of several waterfalls in the park.
Along the way, vehicles were stopped to see these deer in the forest. As long as we were stopped on the one-way drive, we took our own photos too!

The shade of the forest is so dark that we have trouble adjusting our flash to reflect the true colors of green.

The mountains are visible across meadows from time to time. We'd experienced a lot of rain over the weekend and were glad to go on a clear day for our hike.
After parking at the trail head, we were met by a couple of rangers. Several hikers had reported bear sightings along the trail and they were passing along warnings to hikers just arriving. While encouraging caution, they were not at all discouraging folks from carrying on with their hiking plans - so off we went.

Several of these single log creek crossings appeared along the way and we really liked the trail. Classified as moderate, most of the path is downhill to the base of the falls leaving the return trip as the more difficult portion.

The creeks become rivers and provide the refreshing sound of small rapids and a cool breeze all along the way.

Near the falls, the large boulders in the creek were irresistible to Cory.

The park map and other signs warned of the danger of climbing on the wet rocks, but this one was more pointed!

Our reward was well worth the 2 1/2 miles to the falls. Upon reflection, the 2 1/2 miles back was also worth it!

We were getting tired on our return and met folks in flip flop sandals that were going to struggle. While not too difficult of a climb, sections of the trail were climbing rocks and picking your way through tree roots. Traction from at least athletic shoes or boots was needful! We wonder if the sandal bunch was able to make it to the falls or if they had to turn back?

While stopping for rest and water at this spot of rapids, we spied river otters across the way. Two large and one small, they kept their distance but carried on with dipping, diving and climbing over tree branches and rocks. They are impossible to pick out in our photo, but we were so delighted to spend a few minutes watching their playful maneuvering we wanted to share.
We're taking a day to rest, tackle studies and see Knoxville but will return to the park again while we're here. It's absolutely irresistible!

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 5, 1993

Celebrate with Craig and I - it's our 17th wedding anniversary tomorrow!

For some reason, this song has been on my mind frequently and we've chosen it as a virtual anniversary dance. While the message of the song must be balanced with the appropriate source of our peace and existence with God first, the haunting melody of this music reminds us of sweet gift of our spouse as the answer to God's observation that 'it is not good for Man to be alone'....


What are you doing for the rest of your life?

North and south and east and west of your life

I have only one request of your life

That you spend it all with me

All the seasons and the times of your days

All the nickels and the dimes of your days

Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days

All begin and end with me

I want to see your face in every kind of light

In fields of gold and forests of the night

And when you stand before the candles on a cake

Let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make

Those tomorrows waiting deep in your eyes

In the world of love you keep in your eyes

I'll awaken what's asleep in your eyes

It may take a kiss or two...

Through all of my life

Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall of my life

All I ever will recall of my life

Is all of my life with you

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mammoth Cave

We landed near Bowling Green, KY to take in the sights around Mammoth Cave National Park. The cave is reputed to be the largest in the world and we have no reason to doubt. The fee structure for visiting Mammoth Cave is different than Carlsbad Caverns. The park requires no entrance fee, but tours have fees and guided tours are the only way by which to gain access to the caves. We took in two tours during our stay (not on the same day!).
The first tour was labeled the Historic Tour and took about 2 hours to cover the 2 miles in and out. Unlike Carlsbad Caverns, there's no elevators to help you out of this cave. The routes do not change elevation so drastically either, so they are actually much more friendly to those averse to a continuous stair-master exercise to exit!
Here's a couple of photos that we copied from the internet:

While the formations are terrific, there are not as many of them as you might imagine. The cave is 'dry' for the most part, so formations are only in limited areas. We enjoyed the temperature inside the cave (54 F) as a break from the 85-90 F temperatures outside in very high humidity!
While we had a good time, we did not enjoy touring with the large crowd. Some of the tours allow as many as 120 people at once to accompany the ranger through. There are only a few stops along the way with discussion from the ranger, so most of the way is filing through in single file and browsing as you go.

There were several places where the passageway was very narrow - the one below was titles 'Fat Man's Misery'. We didn't think it was a tough as several places where the height of the opening required stooping as while walking.

We took another tour in an evening. Some of the path was the same as our daytime tour, but we liked it better for several reasons:
  1. The group was smaller - the size was limited to no more than 40 people and we toured with about 20.
  2. The atmosphere was very different - no artificial lighting! Lanterns were provided to every 4 people to share and the interior of the cave was completely different. The limited lighting heightened our sense of hearing and smell!
  3. The tour was more of a historical presentation than geological. With the fresh dose of the Creation Museum, listening to the millions and millions of years talk gets really tiresome to us. Presentations of factual information regarding the cave's discovery and visitors since were very interesting!

The rangers conduct frequent programs that are educational in nature. We attended an evening session with a discussion of bees and beekeeping that was very enlightening and enjoyable.

The park itself is very pretty with heavy forests and surface trails. We're planning to enjoy at least one surface hike which will require no guide. Private concessionaires provide rental canoes or horses for alternative touring, but we didn't choose those.

Next stop, the Smoky Mountains!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Creation Museum

From Niagara Falls, we drove due west across Ontario to enter the US at Port Huron, MI. Although there certainly are beautiful portions of Michigan, we were anxious to reach our next major attraction, the Creation Museum. We stayed at a terrific campground near Flint, MI to catch our breath and enjoy some activities such as archery, canoeing and kayaking. Then, we headed south to stay near the intersection of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. We drove through a portion of Ohio, before stopping overnight just over the border into Indiana. The next day, we then drove a meandering path (thanks to an unforeseen construction project and our GPS) through portions of Ohio and Indiana and stayed near Rising Sun, Indiana. A pleasant 30 minute drive along the Ohio River brought us to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. We enjoyed beautiful weather for our 2-day visit.
We were anxiously waiting outside the entrance at 10 am on the first day.

We knew we could expect some terrific presentations, but were not prepared for the excellent finesse in the design of this tremendous attraction. The details in the construction and presentation are on a par with any contemporary exhibition in Disney World. We were thrilled to see that extremely talented artisans and builders had been hard at work to build a facility to help our society to get the straight scoop on the origin of our world!
The visit began with a theater presentation regarding The Created Cosmos emphasized the dimensions of the tremendous universe. A nice blend of astrological wonders of light years and relative dimensions of the sun, the planets and other stars in the solar system and beyond, we found the information entertaining and humbling!
'Men in White' was the next theater presentation with a satirical but factual discussion of God's created world versus the evolutionary theory discussed in most public education forums.
By that time, we were ready for a lunch break. The boys enthusiastically downed individual sized pizzas while we ate some hearty sandwiches. Tables alongside the beautifully landscaped pond enhanced our meal on this terrific spring day.

Refreshed, we began the primary feature - Walk Through History. A series of exhibits that begins with a discussion of paleontology and thought provoking questions, the museum guide recommended at least 2-3 hrs for completing the tour. They're not kidding. We made it through about half the exhibits before deciding to take a break. We wanted to pace this tour appropriately for observation, contemplation and absorption and there's a ton of information provided along the way.

We wanted time to ask and answer our own questions, and especially questions from our kids!
Information digestable by all ages is available and museum staff had provided a 'treasure hunt' activity for our 9 yo that helped occupy him when the presented material was a bit over his head.
Exhibits included presentations to validate the truth of God's Word.

The most colorful and detailed exhibit was the depiction of the Garden of Eden.

Everyone enjoyed taking a stroll in the garden and imagining what it might have been like - with no worries of illnesses, troubles, or fears of anything.
Next were depictions of the Fall of Man that could be a little frightening to young children. Loud noises and darkness are part of the displays that help make the point of the evil that entered God's perfect creation. The distance through this exhibit was short, but we'd strongly recommend parents with children younger than 8 yo to preview this portion first before taking the kids through.

The scaffolding before the boys is beside the Ark, under construction! A life-size scale model of 1/100th of the Ark demonstrates the magnitude of Noah's work and God's provision.
Several dioramas show the full model with details of the animals to scale to show that there was room for every one and every thing that God commanded to go in the Ark.

This was hardly a little tugboat but a massive cargo ship - without an engine or sails!

One section of the museum is dedicated to presentations of dinosaurs and the guys really enjoyed the up close look.

The lunch meal completely forgotten, we took off for the RV park to see if the pool was open. It was, and the guys jumped in for about an hour. Then, the hunger pains returned and we set out to try something new to us - Cincinnati Chili. Skyline Restaurant is a chain famous for this dish and one was nearby.
Here it is, in two favorite serving styles. Cincinnati chili supposedly is prepared without any chili powder. That's right - no chili powder. As a matter of fact, it has several ingredients very foreign to Texas chili consumers: cinnamon, allspice, cloves and unsweetened chocolate. The chili has beef, but it is more of a consistency of spaghetti sauce. As a matter of fact, it is commonly served on top of spaghetti noodles. Then, additional toppings can be added as follows:
1 - just the chili (apparently no one eats it plain)
2 - spaghetti topped with the chili
3 - spaghetti topped with chili and huge quantities of grated cheddar cheese (known as 3-way chili)
4 - spaghetti topped with chili, huge quantities of grated cheddar cheese and either chopped onions or red beans (known as 4-way chili)
5 - spaghetti topped with chili, huge quantities of grated cheddar cheese, chopped onions and red beans (known as 5-way chili)
Or, you can bypass the spaghetti version and enjoy the chili on a hot dog.
And we remembered Cincinnati as the locale of WKRP!
We slept well that evening and were anxious to return to the museum for another day the next morning.
Each day, the museum offers lectures at least twice during the day and a children's session with museum staff. There was no time for that on our first day's visit, so we checked the schedule and purchased tickets for lectures for Craig and Cory and the children's session for Will. Then, we picked up where we left off with the Walk Through History. We picked up at the flood and several exhibits explaining evidence of the flood in the Grand Canyon and other locales in the world. Next was a depiction of God's judgment of man by dispersing the population after the Tower of Babel. The last portion includes a theater presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection with a presentation of the gospel.
We returned to the cafe for lunch, then Craig took Will to the children's session on dinosaurs while Linda and Cory visited the botanical gardens, petting zoo and a revisit to 'Men in White'. Then, Cory and Craig attended a lecture entitled 'Three Ways to Create an Apeman' by Dr. David Menton while Linda returned to the botanical gardens and petting zoo with Will. Those all wrapped up about the same time and after purchasing several books and DVD sets in the bookstore, we headed back to the RV.
Overall, we found the museum to help provide clarity and strength for our faith in God. We also found inspiration to equip ourselves for any future discussions in which we might be able to provide that same clarity and strength to others.
2 Peter 3:15 "...always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you..."
We're confident that we will return again and encourage anyone that has ever been even remotely interested in the offerings of this museum to make a visit. We're confident that you will not regret it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ahhh...Niagara Falls!

Niagara Falls is one of the major milestones along our family journey. We wanted to see the falls from both sides, Canada and New York. Each side has a very different feel as well as a very different view of the famous natural wonder.

We stayed at an RV park in Canada on the banks of Lake Erie, a few miles beyond St. Catherine. The drive to Niagara took about 30 minutes and we made an early start, intending to dedicate the day to the Canada side. The route to public parking passes right alongside the Falls and through Victoria Park. Parking is a premium! We paid $18 for all-day parking near the visitor center. We saw other lots close to the restaurants that advertised $13 parking, but there are a limited number of spaces. The weather was so beautiful and our fascination with the falls so great that we didn't mind the walk at all. Before seeing the Falls, we saw the mist rising high into the air.

The visitor center is a very attractive structure with a pedestrian walkway from the parking area to the falls and several attractions.
Do you see the wet walkway on either side of us? That's mist from the Falls on the other side of the building!
From the Canadian side, the view of the Falls is straight on. The Horseshoe Falls on on the right, an edge of the American Falls is on the left.
Our first look at the Horseshoe Falls! The mist was so thick rising from the crashing water below that we could not see the falls on the other side.
From the walkway along the river, the American Falls come into view.

Looking back at the Canadian Falls, you can see the mist in the middle of the 'horseshoe'.

This structure provides a frame for the American Falls behind the boys. The age of the walkway is obvious everywhere along the path. Hard to imagine the millions of people that have passed along this way with the same view!

We skipped the Imax presentations that are heavily promoted everywhere to go straight for a voyage on the Maiden Mist. The boats board from either side, US or Canada, pass by the American Falls and head straight into the Horseshoe Falls before returning passengers back to the boarding dock. A narrator was speaking to us the whole time, but either crowd noise or noise from the falls obliterated the message. The blue ponchos are provided upon boarding the boat.
The boys led the way to a railside view front and center on the boat.
Getting closer....last photo before getting too wet to take out the camera!

The blue poncho is really more like saran wrap and the turbulent air with all that mist prevents it from working very well. At least our clothes were mostly dry!

The Canadians win the prize for spring landscaping! The bright floral beds were covered in blooms all along the riverside walkway.
Since we made it before summer break for the schools and were visiting on a weekday, the crowds were minimal. The mornings were especially quiet and allowed us to really enjoy ourselves!
The plantings were and framed the falls beautifully! These are the American Falls again.

Later in the afternoon, the sun was behind us and rainbows appeared everywhere in the falls. This is a view of the Maiden Mist taking a load of spectators in close for the look and sound of the falls. Remember...we were right up front and center of the bow on our turn!

A more dispersed prism is visible in the American Falls with another Maiden Mist trip passing by.

The boys are posed below our dinner spot - the rotating restaurant in the Skylon observation tower. The restaurant turns 360 degrees in an hour. When we arrived, our table was directly across from the Falls and we were back at the Falls in time for dessert!

The food was great with generous portions. The ticket was a little pricey, but considering a ticket to go to the observation tower was $13 by itself, we didn't feel too bad about the cost. The elevators climb along the outside of the tower, so the view is terrific all the way up.

The trip up is well worth the trouble, providing a grand perspective to the mighty wonder on display below!

After dinner, we had some time to kill as we waited for nightfall when the Falls are illuminated with huge spotlights across the river. We found a black variety of squirrel that was a new sight for us!
We visited Starbuck's to enjoy while we watched the sky display beautiful sunset colors. Finding an unoccupied bench across from the American Falls, we enjoyed the leisure of simply sitting with no agenda!
At last, the lights came on and we found it worth our wait!
Oh, that's not the end of this extremely long post - we've got to show the New York side of things so that you can decide for yourself where you should see this amazing sight, should you take the opportunity!

This is the view of the falls as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

A fellow American on the Maiden Mist had tipped us off to a free parking area on the New York side. In New York, the area is a state park with no admission fee. Three parking areas are available: Lot 1 (closest and $10 per day), Lot 2 (next closest and $8 per day) and Lot 3 (no charge, but the furthest walk). We chose Lot 3 and enjoyed the walk along the river toward the falls. It seems like it only took about 10 minutes of walking at a very leisurely pace.

The sights and sounds of rapids are with you every step of the way.

Before long, here's a preview of the coming spectacle. Those tall buildings are hotels on the Canada side of the river.

As we approached, the more of the beautiful rainbow presented itself for our morning treat!

It was such fun that it absolutely took our breath away! God is a masterful designer of beauty, isn't He?

We purchased an excursion called 'Cave of the Winds'. No longer a cave, it's actually an elevator ride down to the river level with a series of boardwalks to bring you close to the American Falls. Years ago, tourists walked behind a section called Bridal Veil, but a large boulder protecting them from the rush of the water deteriorated and finally was removed. No longer safe to allow tourists to go that direction, the stairs climb up alongside the falls for the closest look on foot.

As we approached the boardwalk, we found a vast flock of gulls perching in the riverside rocks.

Then, we noticed the babies!

This mama was very indifferent to the close proximity of people and allowed us a peek at the still wet hatchling beside her other egg.

The hatchling is on the left, well disguised by the nesting material.

On to the main attraction in our souvenir ponchos, yellow this time but equally ineffective as the blue ones of yesterday! We also were furnished water sandals - not optional!

We paused for a moment before tackling the wettest part of the trail.

And here it is - the Hurricane Deck where the force of the turbulence as the falls hit the boulders is equivalent to hurricane force winds. Craig and the boys are up there on that upper deck. The camera got wet and several other shots had big water bubbles in the middle.

After we rode back up in the elevator and dried out a bit, we took this photo looking down on the decks we had walked just a few moments ago. The trails along the river on the New York side are not formally landscaped and allow a closer look a the river rapids.

This photo demonstrates the view across the American Falls toward the Horseshoe Falls in the distance. Completely different in its perspective, the US view is very worthwhile with the unforgettable sounds that accompany the spectacle.

In closing, a few footnotes about the two sides of the falls. To capture that Canadian view, you now must have a passport or other proof of your citizenship to cross the international border. Children accompanied by both parents doe not require a passport at this time, but a birth certificate demonstrating both citizenship and proof of parents is necessary (at the time of this writing). Before scheduling the trip, check the current international border crossing requirements for documents to assure a trouble free crossing. The Canadian side has a river view look at the Horseshoe Falls similar to the Cave of the Winds. We saw the folks at the base of the falls and it didn't seem to compare well for getting as close as possible. You also wouldn't get nearly as wet! There are no towers that really provide the view of the falls on the US side. The Canadian side is full of casinos, but we found them to be set back from the beautiful park that allows continuous strolling along the river. The walks on either side are flat and paved, so good walking shoes are needful, but it's hardly a hike! Trolleys and buses provide some relief for foot sore or the physically challenged, but if able - put on those tennies and enjoy the exercise!