Thursday, June 18, 2015

Southeast Road Trip, Days 3 and 4

After packing up camp in Daisy State Park, we headed east.  The first stop was Little Rock Central High.  Last summer, we stopped by here and the visitor's center and school were both closed, so we weren't able to go inside the center, but we could walk right up to the front of the school:

This time around, school was in session, so we couldn't walk up to the school (without being on the tour group...which Secora's not quite old enough to put up with), but we did get to go in the visitor's center.  This means I finally got my passport stamp!
We picked up junior ranger books for each of the girls and they worked on them for a little bit before we sat outside for another picnic lunch.  There are no picnic tables here, but all the rangers that walked by seemed somewhat pleasantly surprised that someone was utilizing the benches and picnicking.
The exhibits inside cover the history of civil rights, in general.  There is, of course, information about the integration of Central High, but the exhibits stretch from the writing of the constitution, through women's rights, the farm workers' rights movement, general civil rights, and the recent disability rights movement.  The junior ranger booklet focused on the legal battles leading up to and surrounding Brown v. Board of Education, but also more general questions of equality and access, so it turned out to be a pretty good history lesson.  The ranger we happened to get also seemed really thrilled to be able to help some kids get their junior ranger badges.  It seemed like maybe they don't do that many of them here.  He was able to engage all three of the girls in good conversation at their own level.

This was Secora's very first junior ranger badge and she took it VERY seriously
Outside, she was back to posing for pictures
We still had a lot of miles to cover, so got back on the road and headed towards Memphis.  Many "are we there yets" later, we crossed over into Tennessee.
We pulled into the welcome center for a break from the car and the little girls enjoyed dancing to the music that was playing (while Sierra tried to pretend they weren't associated with her)
That is, until we got outside, where she had to sneak in some bunny ears.  Secora doing some ridiculous pose while Sierra puts bunny ears on someone is pretty much the theme of the pictures from this trip
Lots of boring miles later, we arrived at Montgomery Bell State Park just west of Nashville.  Do NOT stay at Montgomery Bell State Park.  We sure wouldn't have if we'd arrived earlier in the day.  Had I not had kids with me, I would have preferred to sleep in the car in a parking lot than stay here.  We arrived late, after the sun had set.  This was a planned stop because the reviews were good, which scares me about Tennessee state parks that have bad reviews.  We passed TONS of state parks in Tennessee and I'm wondering if they are more money making venture than typical state park based on the looks of this one.  As usual, we asked for a site near the bathroom and this is where the guy put us (picture taken the next morning):
I mean, yeah, it's close to the bathroom, but I really didn't mean practically IN the bathroom.  The bathroom was filthy too.

Campsites are packed together, which this picture doesn't quite convey adequately, but everyone is on top of each other.  This is the only night anyone picked up any ticks (Secora got two), but we didn't hike at all here and I'm convinced they were from the multitude of leash-less dogs wandering around everyone's sites rather than the woods.
We fell asleep to the sounds of an old couple fighting about anything and everything, the bathroom exhaust fans and more dogs than I could count.  The next morning, we ate bagels while packing up and then got the hell out of dodge.

We had planned to spend some time in Nashville, but didn't know exactly what we wanted to do.  I looked around online while we were driving and Pancake Pantry had been featured on Man vs. Food and looked like something that would make the kids happy.  Unfortunately, when we arrive the line was literally down the block

They could be the best pancakes in the world, but no way were we gonna keep three cranky and hungry kids in a line that long.

A block away, we spotted the Fido coffee house.

This is an old pet supply store that's been converted to a cafe.  They also sell pancakes, and there was a line, but not one that wrapped around the block.  We tromped in with our shorts and t-shirts, three kids and lack of tattoos or facial piercings, so we didn't quite fit in with all the other hipsters there, but they were nice just the same.

Instead of table numbers, you get assigned a dog while you're waiting for your order.  Princess is a 4 year old bulldog who likes anything chewable and has impeccable taste.
I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever gotten coffee with a design on top.  Went with a regular mocha and it was a step up (okay, giant leap) from the instant coffee we'd been drinking.
Our next activity was something we had no idea existed, but we saw a sign on the side of the road and Sierra practically jumped out of the car.  Turns out there is a life sized replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, TN.  Sierra is obsessed with mythology and, let's face it, we won't be in Greece anytime soon, so this quickly became our "must do" activity.
I'm really glad we stopped.  You just can't quite appreciate the scale until you're standing there.
This replica was built in 1897 as the centerpiece of the Tennessee Centenial Exposition (similar to a World's Fair)
In the 1920's, the outside was redone since the original structure was meant to be temporary
And then in the 90's, a sculpture of Athena was added and in the early 2000's, she was gilded to match the original Athena Parthenos
You can walk all around the outside of the building for free and it's in the middle of a large park.  It costs $6 for adults and $4 for kids to go inside the building and there's not a whole lot to see, but Athena makes it worth it.  If you have a child obsessed with Greek Mythology and you're anywhere near Nashville, they'll enjoy this.

There are also gryphons guarding the doorways
Really though, you just can't help walking back to that GIANT Athena statue over and over again.  Just about everyone I saw walk in turned the corner and immediately gasped.
Nike in Athena's right hand

There are also ginormous bronze doors.  The information plague said each of these doors weigh 7.5 tons.  They are balanced on special hinges to be able to move freely, but the ones in the Parthenon would have been wood covered in bronze and also would have needed the tracks in the floor to help support their weight
Another PB&J lunch in the park outside the Parthenon
And an urban bunny, just because
We knew the girls wouldn't be interested in the Johnny Cash Museum, but we wanted to at least go take a picture.
We did go into the gift shop, where we bought some Brew Named Sue coffee and Aloe, I'm Johnny Splash soap.
I was weirdly obsessed with this soap.  As soon as I smelled it, I had to have it.  I was sneaking smells of it through the rest of the trip.  It wasn't until I got home and took a shower and was surrounded by the smell that it dawned on me.  It's the exact same spearmint smell of the gum my grandfather used to chew all the time.  He's been gone almost 20 years and I'm not sure I could have even told you he chewed gum until this memory came rushing back.  Smells are crazy.

As we were walking through downtown, we spotted the most perfect jacket ever for Josh
It came with a most perfect price tag, so we settled for a picture
Pretty soon we were at the Rocket Fizz Candy Shop
They have all sorts of candies you don't typically get a chance to buy and the shelves underneath are loaded with every type of soda you could ever imagine trying
The girls each got to get a candy and a soda
We stopped for some cups of ice to pour the soda over and Secora was very impressed with her Strawberry Jam soda
Before long, we were in Kentucky!  A new state, hooray!
And not long after that, Mammoth Cave National Park
Checking in at the campground was such a relief after the experience of Montgomery Bell.  After setting up everything, we walked to the (crazy busy, but nice and well laid out) visitor's center to pick up junior ranger booklets.  Along the way we saw some butterflies and a turkey along with plenty of squirrels.

The biggest downside to the campground was the prevalence of what I'm pretty sure is poison ivy.  Thankfully the big girls know all about it and Secora had watched a Curious George episode about it, so even she walked up and immediately said, "leaves of 3, leave it be!"
Dinner this night was another foil packet with chopped ham, sweet potato and pineapple chunks.
We had also picked up some peaches at a roadside stand and we used them to make bannock.  Similar to the apple crisp on day one, I mixed up the dry ingredients for this at home, then just added coconut oil, water and peaches at the campsite and mixed it all up in the bag.
I added a little sugar to the dry ingredients, but it was still more of a bread than a muffin.  I also thought we'd probably do this with blueberries, had I known it would be peaches I would have added cinnamon.  It still turned out well though!

Sedona and Secora found a lady bug to visit with for the evening while we were cooking dinner
I also met a woman who was working on a cross country bike trip at this campground, so that was pretty neat .

Before long, it was time to crawl back into the tent for bed.  Day 5 was slated to bring....drumroll, please......shower day!!  We did washcloth wipe downs, but we aren't "take a shower everyday while in the woods" kind of people.  We were looking forward to showers the next morning though.  We also had plans to go in Mammoth Cave and drive to Great Smoky Mountains.  Lots more fun was in store!

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