Sunday, June 15, 2008

Long Overdue...

The last I updated, it was Tuesday & we hadn't even been to Dollywood!! The long & short of it is...the road trip was awesome & our entire family loved it.

Dollywood...now that's another story. The day was painfully hot and while we enjoyed some of the rollercoasters, we only ended up staying a few hours. The heat got to us fast & we were all wilting!

We decided to ditch a 2nd day at Dollywood and head home. As we were driving, Clark decided he was up for driving the whole way home, so we made the complete trip on Thursday. Audrey, Rusty, & I slept a good portion of the way home, and we finally pulled in the driveway around 2am.

Clark must have been in robot-mode to drive through the night like that with no company to talk to & nothing to look at in the dark!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday

After a relaxing night at the hotel, we all slept until about 8:00 and then started moving. Clark brought up breakfast for us all & that helped wake us up even more. Once we were all showered and re-packed, we headed down to The Silver Slug for another full day of driving!!



Batman spent lots of time watching DVDs...
We made another paper chain for this leg of our drive. I brought strips of paper & a glue stick so we could make paper chains for every leg. Each link this time represents 50 miles, and it really helped Rusty "get" how much farther we had to travel!
We stopped along the way at DQ for lunch & ice creams...
I drove Audrey even more crazy with my pictures....
Rusty had more fun with the most annoying car toy EVER while we were at a pit stop...
Enjoying the view...
Our little piggy from the DQ kids' meals became out mascot that rode under the windshield wiper...
Audry took a big nap & I snuck a picture...
We found another McDonald's for a potty break & ice cream stop...check out the cool Ronald McDonald statue!
Cheeseballs...like my new sunglasses? They were the cheapest, ugliest pair I could find at WalMart in Arkansas. $5 baby!
We arrived in Gatlinburg safely, thanks to Clark's safe driving. Audrey STILL had no idea why on Earth we were here. We drove through Pigeon Forge to get to our hotel in Gatlinburg and saw all sorts of countryfied entertainment opportunities (can you say The Comedy Barn?)



After eating dinner at Texas Roadhouse (yes, we drove 14 hours to eat dinner at a Texas restaurant!), we decided it was time to spill the beans to Audrey of where we were going to visit tomorrow.



Clark & I picked up some brochures of local activities, & she had to figure out what we were here to do.



Her first guess....

Her second guess....
Her third guess....
After she threw all the above options on the bed, she had only one left in her hand.
Is that joy on her face? Is she thinking "My parents have absolutely lost their mind."

It was too much to handle...

She spent lots of time looking through the Dollywood brochure, and we'll head out tomorrow for our fist day at the park. We can't wait :) Tee he he he

And in case you're wondering just how redneck is this town? Directly across the street from our hotel is a restaurant called "Cooters" with a replica of the General Lee (Dukes of Hazard car) in the parking lot. I kid you not.

It's late and we're going to head to bed. We've got a big day tomorrow!!




Monday, June 9, 2008

Monday

We left this morning around 10:00...ready to hit the road! Audrey read...
Clark drove the car. Rusty played with his army guys. I entertained myself taking pictures. Like the sunglasses I'm wearing? It took me all of 45 minutes into our trip for me to LOSE them. Crap.
We headed out I30...it always makes me laugh when the GPS says this:
OK. I'll remember to turn in 295 miles.

We stopped for lunch at McDonalds...
And continued on our way. Rusty watched Schoolhouse Rock...
Audrey, Clark, & I dug into some yummy snacks...
Rusty took his nap...
Audrey wondered why we were in Arkansas.
We made a pit stop at WalMart...for essentials...
Rusty sported his new Batman mask everywhere we went...
Rusty played Road Trip Bingo for about 1 minute, then got bored, so I played the rest of my card. No luck on the logging truck or tow truck...

Rusty managed to pack the most annoying car toy possible:


We made many pee stops along the way. Got grossed out at a Truck Stop. We plugged along for almost 500 miles and stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner about 10 miles away from our final stop....the hotel! Rusty wanted to play checkers while we waited for dinner to arrive...
Audrey, Clark, & I dined on Chicken Fried Steak with various sides (dumplings, fried okra, corn, fried apples, applesauce, YUM). Rusty went for the burger.
Rusty had to make one last checkers stop before we got back into The Silver Slug and drove onto our hotel for the night.
We followed this stinky poo truck most of the way to the hotel. Ugh.

We're now unwinding in the hotel. I brought bathing suits with full intentions of taking the kids swimming once we arrived, but nobody is asking and I don't feel like going right now! Even though we sat on our butts in the car for the entire day, I'm really tired. I'm sure Clark is tired as well...he did all the driving.
I did find out that straight, smooth highway driving doesn't upset my stomach when trying to read, so I spent the day polishing off a book. I only brought two books, and we have another full day of driving tomorrow. I think a stop at WalMart tomorrow is in order to get a few more books for the trip home!
Audrey still doesn't know where we're going. She's stumped as to why we're in Memphis. And why we have to drive all day tomorrow. Tee he he he.
Tune in tomorrow for more pictures of our day...the kids traveled really well and I don't have any horror stories!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And So It Begins...

When Audrey came over tonight, Clark & I ran out and picked up this:

Our transportation for the week is...The Silver Slug! As soon as we got home, Rusty had to check it out. He thinks he's riding to Dollowood in here:
And although the size is right, I think it might be just a *tad* unsafe. He was bummed to learn he had to sit in his carseat.

What does a 14 year old's reaction look like?

We're still the meanest parents on the planet. She still has no idea where we're going. She's curious why on Earth we rented The Silver Slug. Four year old Rusty has done a stellar job of keeping the secret :)

Still debating when we'll spill the beans to Audrey...

Hugs!

Ellen

Packing & Looking Back

Today is a day for finishing our packing, picking up our MiniVan rental, & picking up Audrey this afternoon.

I also have on my list to make a paper chain for Rusty to help count the miles. Our first stop Monday night will be in Memphis, & Tuesday we'll drive the rest of the way to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. We'll make 4 paper chains...one for the Memphis leg of the trip, another for the Pigeon Forge leg, and then two for the return trip home.

Our daily drive will be approximately 450 miles (give or take a few), so we'll split the chain into 50 mile increments. As on our Hawaii flight, hopefully the paper chain countdown will help with the "Are we there yet?" questions!


So while we're waiting for our Monday departure, I thought I'd post some fun stuff from our family vacation last summer. We took all 3 kids to Playa del Carmen for a week & had a blast at our first all-inclusive vacation. We had a really cool surprise when we were upgraded to the Presidential Suite upon arrival. It was huge & beautiful and we decided that we probably would never go back to the same hotel, because how could we go back to a regular room since we knew what else was there?!?

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As much as Audrey says she hates the beach, she sure had fun in Playa del Carmen!

Playa del Carmen Room

I didn't get a chance to post the pictures I took of our Presidential Suite (see my story below!) at the Iberostar. So here's the room, in all it's glory, before we had sunscreen bottles, Legos, flip flops, books, & whatever else strewn about! :)

So we walked in to find this crazy-big Presidential Suite. What a beautiful surprise! Here's the living room, dining room area:

Couches that were comfy & moved all around the living room area to provide the best TV viewing, naps, & comfort for all!

We would find door after door, and opening each one was a fun surprise! This door led to a full kitchen with stove & full fridge. Who the heck needs a stove at an All Inclusive resort with no cooking utensils or pots provided, I will never know. It was a nice touch though. The full fridge, however, was very nice! The maids stocked the fridges daily with all sorts of beverages. Water and Diet Cokes were our favorites, followed closely by the kids with their glass-bottle Cokes. Too bad nobody in our group enjoys drinking beer (or as one of Rusty's little friends calls them, "beverages"!) because those too were free for the taking in the fridges. Our big fridge was VERY generously stocked with loads of bottled water, and even huge multi-gallon jugs of water. So Clark's coffee and Rusty's water in his cup was bottled. Thank goodness. You just never can trust the faucet water in Mexico, and it made me feel better to give the men & boys water I was certain was OK!


The Master Bedroom was very spacious, with a King bed, couch, TV, desk. Tons of space. Beautiful view of the ocean all the way across. We all slept like logs on this great bed. The maids created cute little towel animals each night for everyone. Great room, but VERY slippery floors. The entire set of rooms had marble floors, which look stunning, but are insanely slippery when you're wet from the pool, or shower, or hot tub, or the other hundred times one enters the room wet while on vacation. Luckily, I was the only one who bit the dust on a slippery floor. But that was to blame on my flip flops, that functioned like water skis, & assisted me in doing some dandy splits in the bathroom. Audrey laughed at me. What a loving daughter. :)



This is sitting on the Master bed, the living room is just through the door. Isn't the TV soooo far away? Poor us. I had to push the couch all the way over to the left so that we could both see the TV from bed. Could life possibly get any more tough? I barely made it through this week.


The nice big 'old Master bathroom shower. Rusty loved, loved, loved the hand-held shower head thingy. He'd wash himself, help Daddy wash his soap off, try to spray Mommy in the face. Not all in the same set of showers, mind you. But he did love the shower spray nozzle. More marble though. Too crazy slippery if you ask me. Stepping out of this shower with my flip flops on (the last day, getting the clothes off the drying rod in the shower) is where I did my gymnastics stunt and just about pulled a hamstring while I slipped into the splits. Audrey laughed. Turd.

The entire Master bath & vanity area. Lots of space to get ready. I think I did my hair once the whole time. Sure glad I hauled the flat iron, hair spray, hair gel, velcro curlers to vacation. NOT.

As if the room size didn't make our Upgrade status cool, the view from the balcony was SO freakin' cool! Patio chairs (which we never actually used for anything other than drying clothes) would have been so peaceful if it wasn't 10,000 degrees out side. But if you ran out fast, glanced at the ocean, & ran back in, you would only require minimal rehydration. OK, but seriously, it was just too darn hot to lounge outside until it was evening. Then a great breeze would kick up, the sun was not blaring on your skull, and it felt so darn nice. Almost every night there was a wedding on the beach right below our balcony. So I got to watch 3 (or 4?) weddings & get all sappy. One wedding brought me to tears and reminded me of our wedding on the beach in the Bahamas 6 years ago. Ours was way better, but still. A girl can't help but love a wedding :) Even if they are total strangers, and they don't know you're watching from 3 stories up, and you think her dress is ugly. But I digress.
A view from the opposite end of the balcony. OK, so the "hot tub" was more like an outdoor, large bathtub. You'd fill it with a tub faucet, it had jets & an "on" button that matched out tub at home perfectly. Only difference was it was made to fit a few people. So I treated it like our tub at home, & let Rusty take his baths out there. Even filled it with baby soap one night & Rusty had a big bubble bath outside!
The other not-so-shabby part of our upgraded status was the kids' room! 'Ya see, we paid for two Jr. Suites, and asked that they be joining. So perhaps when they decided to give us the Presidential Suite, they knew we wanted a joining room, so all we were left with was this other HUGE suite! Um, OK! These types of rooms aren't even on the Iberostar website as a choice. Believe me, I checked. As soon as we got home, I tried to see what sort of deal we got with these rooms, but you can't even pick them as a choice! So, the kids ended up with this awesome huge suite. WAY bigger than any Jr. Suite listed on their website. Huge bathroom, loads of closet space. Two nice beds. Full ocean view. You get the picture. Sometimes I feel bad that Chuck & Audrey have to experience life's hardships this way. But they're strong, and I know they'll survive.

This last picture is a view from the kids' balcony, which is essentially the view from our balcony as well. I could have this view every morning forever!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Take A Trip Back

Since some of you are checking in here for the first time (as our vacation blog), I thought I'd pull a few movies I've made of our travels for you to watch while you wait for our Monday departure.

First is a movie from our Hawaii trip in February:
The best way I know to share a vacation story...through pictures & music! Although the title of this post says luau, there's not really any luau (sorry if you were jonesing for a luau fix) but there's plenty of beach, sun, & waves to satisfy your beach needs. Oh, yea, and two great guys :)

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One of our fun Disney trips:
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We took Audrey on this Disney trip in January:

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Universal Studios for Spring Break '08:



Disney Cruise October '07
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's Time To Reveal The Mystery Location!


Way back in February, when we were still trying to figure out our summer vacation plans, we asked Audrey many times..."Where would you like to go for vacation?"
We tended to get answers such as:
"I don't want to go to the beach."
"I don't like hot weather."
"I like cloudy, cold weather."
"I don't like to swim much."

Whenever we asked for a suggestion, we got the Teen-Anthem... "I dunno."

So what are we, as parents, supposed to do when left with no suggestions from 14-year old Audrey as to what type of vacation she would enjoy?

Take it upon ourselves to plan the most obnoxiously fun vacation possible!

*Our first road trip, ever
*A stop in Memphis, TN the first night
*Final destination.....

That's right! Dollywood is our final destination. Every teenager's dream vacation spot...funnel cakes, hoedowns, & the Smokey Mountains. Tee he he he.

We're renting a mini-van, which will be christened with a name upon departure (remember Hot Carl at Disney World?) and heading out Monday morning.

Audrey still has no idea where we're going or what we're doing. Rusty has done a very good job at keeping the secret. At what point will Audrey figure all this out? At what point will she disown her family?

Clark is contemplating wearing shortalls without a shirt underneath. Which makes me slightly turned on. But we won't go there. Seriously though, imagine this stud in shortalls with no shirt:

We'll have plenty of internet access, lots of pictures to share, & I'm sure you'll hear some interesting stories along the way. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Upcoming Trip, Ya'll!

We have a big mystery trip coming up...Audrey has no idea where we're going, how we're getting there, or what we're doing. We leave Monday June 9th & return Saturday June 14th (Happy Birthday Clark!).

We should have easy internet access throughout the trip so I will be sure to update with pics & stories! :)

Hugs--
Ellen

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Picture Update: 6:32PM Saturday

Lots of playing, napping, eating...I'm too tired to go through the day. Thought some pictures would sum it up better!

Yesterday, we went to Lahina & I liked this sticker on one of the store windows:

Of course, the ukelele came with us everywhere. Rusty gave a live concert in Lahina at the docks...
The boys had too much fun playing in the gift shops. Rusty ended up talking Daddy into buying a back scratcher...
We tried on tribal masks...
After Lahina, we came back, took naps, & then played on the beach. Clark took this photo, which I think is beautiful :)
I can't remember the last time I actually played in the sand. I mean, really played...where I had sand up my butt & in my hair. At first, I buried Rusty in the sand (at his request)....
I turned him into a mermaid...
Nice job, eh?
How could I refuse Rusty's request to bury me? It was fun, it felt awesome to be blanketed in the warm, heavy sand. I dodged a few sandy handfuls that were aimed at my head. This was a first for Mommy & Rusty...playing in the sand like this together. We've been to the beach a bunch of times, but never have been IN the beach!
After playing in the sand, Rusty & I played in the waves a bunch. Clark took pictures. My butt looked really frightening. So I deleted the pictures. Rest assured though. We had a blast!