Ode to summer vacations….

I know this is a random topic, but the older I get the more I miss the summer 10 day+ long road trips we took with the kids while they were little. At the time they were work, we had packing and planning to do. We had to route out maps and plan where to stay. But looking back I realize what a gift they were….

 

In the days of having high schoolers, and one now graduating, summer has become about running to and from travel basketball, going to early morning weight lifting and speed and agility training and open gyms. It has become about ATTENDANCE at the mandatory things in the summer that coaches have laid out for the boys high school athletics careers, And while I love to be my kids biggest fan, and I love to be the one on the sidelines cheering my sons and their teams on, I now look back and realize how much I miss throwing my family in the car and taking off on some family adventure for 10 days interrupted.

 

I can remember the year when the kids, ages 9 months, 6 and 9 years and my husband and I hit the road for a family trip to Atlanta. It was the summer after my Grandma had died and I knew that time with family was so precious. We visited Stone Mountain in sweltering heat, raced around Atlanta Motor speedway, spent a day at World of Coke and the Atlanta Aquarium. Visited the Smoky Mountain National Park and the Civil War Park in Chattanooga and rode the incline railway. Those are the memories I cherish most. I remember driving with the kids into Memphis Tennessee and losing Nate in a hotel elevator when he got off on the wrong floor.

 

I remember the summer we headed to the Wisconsin Dells as a family. The kids were slightly older. We stayed for a week in a cabin in the Dells and went to three different water parks in the course of the week. We watched Addie and Clint ride in go-carts and we cooked popcorn over the stove the old way in a jiffy pop metal pan.

 

Then there was the last summer trip we took to South Dakota and Cheyenne Wyoming. We went to the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo and looked back through South Dakota where we took in the sights of the Black Hills. Devils Tower, Badlands, Mount Rushmore. The typical family trip.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we take a family road trip every year. Since my boys have hit high school we have made it a habit to go on spring break and have made trips to Phoenix Arizona, Naples Florida, a big loop through Oklahoma and Texas including Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma and San Antonio, and most recently the week long road trip we took to Estes Park Colorado this past spring break.

 

The months before graduation I had been going through pictures of the kids in anticipation of Nate’s upcoming graduation and if there is any one piece of advice I could give it would be TAKE THE TRIP. Looking back at the memories that have been made throwing my kids in the car and driving across the country are priceless. Looking at pictures I am taken back into that moment in time and can remember each trip as if it were yesterday. I am so fortunate to have the blessing of the ability to share this beautiful country with my kids.

 

This past summer, as it had been the past three years, we were at home shuttling kids to sports and practices. We purposely took our family vacation to Estes Park in anticipation of the summer schedule we had. Down deep I will have a little streak of jealousy for those who are packing up the car and hitting the road on a family adventure in the sweltering heat of summer. When my daughter is the last one left at home and the boys are in college, I know our summer family trips will resume minus two boys who have started lives of their own. They will never be the same. We will have fun. And we will see new and exciting things as a smaller family, but I will most definitely cling to the memories of the family vacations and road trips we took while they were all home. I only hope when the have families of their own we can all take a trip together someday.

 

My mom will be turning 70 this year. For her birthday she has asked for a weeklong family trip to the mountains with her whole family. This is all she wanted. I know now where I get my wanderlust and adventurous attitude! We are headed to the Great Smoky Mountains for a week. All of us. I cannot wait to spend that time together in a big house in the mountains soaking it all in. This is truly the stuff life is made of!

 

So in closing- if you get the chance take the tri. It is so worth every minute together away from the hustle and bustle. I look forward to the time away with my nieces and siblings and parents and in laws. This is the stuff memories are made of, and I am already planning the next trip after this one J

 

Till next time,

 

Laura

 

 

 

 

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My Longaberger Experience 

This post has been in my draft box for a long longgg time. I think because writing it is so bittersweet. The Longaberger company has always been a company that I LOVED the products from. The handmade baskets, the pottery, I simply loved the stuff at a time when I really could not afford it! The “heyday” for the company so to speak was back in the mid 90’s (about the time I was in high school) and just after (when I was a struggling college student working her way through nursing school.) Let’s face it- I had no money and despite my attempts to at one time sell it for a discount, I still did not have the funds.

Don’t get me wrong I had a few things.. and those things I cherished because I simply love the pottery and baskets they make. But let’s face it, I was no big time collector.  

Fast forward to the here and now. I had promised my mom, who was a Longeaberger lover like me…that I would one day take her to the home offices in Dresden, Ohio so she could tour the factory and watch the basket makers at work. I had always wanted to see this massive operation myself, and what better way to help your mom cross something off her bucket list than drive her the 10 hours there, throw in your daughter and make a mother/daughter weekend out of it? Perfect!
We had it all planned. I would drive, we would take the factory tour (call ahead of course and reserve a time as reservations are recommended…) and see the place we had both always longed to see.

  
We left on a Tuesday in August- mid-week would be perfect. Lines would be down despite the peak of travel season. Our goal would be to see the town of Dresden, the factory tour and the large home office built to resemble a Longaberger basket.

Frankly——– I hate to say it——–but it was such a disappointment.

The best part was experiencing it with my mom and daughter as we had always planned. But the grounds…. oh my goodness the grounds… they are BARREN. Driving onto the complex you pass a guard shack that has not been occupied since the early 2000’s. The daycare center for employees was so barren, abandoned, and overgrown we had to ask someone what was under and behind all the brush that had grown up and around it. The main buildings massive circular drive was closed off with construction cones and was so overgrown that once we drove around the cones to see it the building itself was unrecognizable. The company timeline in the visitor center had not been updated since 2000.

We had made a “reservation” why I do not know as there was a grand total of six…. six adults on the tour and my daughter. How sad.

One lady kept saying that she had taken the tour back in the heyday and it was so packed you were only allowed to walk around the upstairs catwalk. Lines and lines of shut down basket maker stations stand unused. The few basket makers left pump out the reminder of the product by hand and are more than happy to show you how it is done.

The saddest part is of the thousands of employees that once graced those hallways only roughly 250 are left. So sad.

I am glad I went. I am glad to have fullfilled the bucket list item on my list and my moms list. I am all about seeing new things and seeing the factory and taking the tour and seeing the home office are all things I have wanted to do. So I have no regrets. I also bought a ton, got a discount at the on grounds store and filled the back end of my van with purchases on my way home.

I just am sad to see the decline of this great company and appreciate that I had an opportunity to see it’s “home” even though the founders are long gone.
Till my next adventure!

~Laura

Iowa summer sights “John Wayne birthplace museum”

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway -John Wayne

Statue of John Wayne at the entrance of the newly built museum in Winterset, Iowa

The only area of the museum where pictures are allowed, along with props for kids to try on and take a picture in. Nice job Addie!

I am finally getting to my last blog post ( I believe) of our summer travels around our beautiful state. I had a MISSION this summer to show my children some of the great places our state has to offer and we saw several. One of my favorite though was the John Wayne birthplace and museum. The home is located in Winterset Iowa and very recently they built a new museum next door which was still not completely finished. When we were there they had tile in the entryway that had not yet been laid etc. Overall though the place was ready for visitors.
The visitor center and museum tour starts with a video about the life of John Wayne and some clips about his famous films and television shows he has starred in. plays on a continuous rotation and if I recall correctly lasts about 10 minutes.

From there you move into a large room that has memorabilia from John Wayne’s life on display. There are pieces of hollywood props and sets he used, old letters and scripts etc. There are no videos or pictures allowed in the room, which really was the biggest downer as I would have liked to have taken some to show my husband. Oh well.

From this room you exit the building and if you paid to also tour his birthplace you walk next door and take a tour of the very small home that is right beside the museum. The picture of the decorated conversion van was taken between the two. From the looks of it, this van was custom-made by a super fan and they allow the museum to park it there for display at various times throughout the year. It was kind of parked off the sidewalk under a carport between the 2 buildings.

 The house was neat. Very small, and was crowded the day we were there. It was a weekday in August, but that is also prime tourism season so I am sure that contributed to the congestion. Everything in the house is on 1 level and it takes only about 10 minutes to see it all. It is very small and is decorated to look like period for his life but does not contain a lot of actual John Wayne items. Interesting, but the whole tour of both buildings did not take as long as I would have thought.

My kids were (eh..) on the whole thing… they really do not know much about John Wayne so that is understandable. I enjoyed seeing it because I am a person who likes to see and experience as much as I can. I have no plans to return though. I appreciate any opportunity to support small town Iowa attractions though and would recommend this as a stop if ever in the area.

We were able to experience this museum and also the covered bridges in Madison County – read more here Iowa Summer sights, Bridges of Madison County in an afternoon along with an ice cream stop.

I think this is my last post about Iowa summer sights…. that is until I find more pictures in my camera and I remember another stop we made…

Thanks for reading!

Iowa summer sights 2015 “Clark Tower”

Tyler sitting under the ladder you have to climb to get to the observation deck, note how steep the steps are

Madison County part II. The Clark tower in Winterset City Park.  This was an interesting quick stop. We were already here for the covered Bridges of Madison County anyway. It was a quick stop, it did not take long.   The best way to find the tower is to enter the city park in the main entrance and then follow the road straight up into the hilly dense tree area ahead of you. (Past the covered bridge). It is a long drive in the dense trees and is tight. The road curves and has tight turns, and side note…..it is one lane in width. Not an easy drive if you have a big vehicle… and I don’t believe motorhomes are allowed in that area of the park. Once at the top of the bluff the road enters a clearing and the tower is up in a gravel lot.

 The tower is old. Its best attribute is the view which looks over all the bluffs below. To get to the top you have to climb a rickety old ladder that appears to have been there since the 40’s. If you cannot easily manipulate steep ladder stairs and narrow openings then this stop isn’t for you. The pay off is definitely the view which was spectacular.

I had to help my youngest to the top. She does not handle heights well. But she enjoyed it when she got to lookout area and she was able to see over the trees. For me it was worth the stop… I enjoy seeing off the road places.

Another side note, it is very deserted up there. You have to drive off in a wooden area alone and there is NO ONE around when you get to the top. I felt a little disconnected from society, not sure I would walk all the way up there alone.

All in all- good stop, but quick. Won’t take up too much time. 🙂

Iowa summer sights “Bridges of Madison County”

Bridges of Madison County What a beautiful sight! If you live in Iowa… as I have my whole life.. Then the covered bridges in Madison County are a must see. There is nothing quite like walking through the old wooden structures knowing that once upon a time they held horse-drawn buggies and wagons. They are beautiful. 
Popularity rose for the bridges in 1995 when award-winning actor Clint Eastwood released a movie starring Meryl Streep that’s title was “The Bridges of Madison County” . People flocked to Iowa to see one of the 6 remaining covered bridges. Originally Madison County housed 19, and today 5 are on the National Registry of Historic Places.

You can read more about their history, the novel, the movie, and their tours here:

Bridges of Madison County

I decided this was another stop in Iowa that my kids should take the time to visit. I remember my Grandparents going once upon a time.. and since we only live an hour away, this was another stop we should take the time to make.

We visited 2 of the bridges. The first one was Roseman Bridge (the one in the picture of the backside of 2 of my kids) and it is known as the “haunted bridge”. Legend has it that this bridge is haunted because in 1892 two sheriff’s posses trapped a county jail escapee in the bridge. Legend says that the man cried out and jumped up straight through the roof of the bridge and disappeared. As the story goes he was not found again. The bridge was very quiet, covered with signatures of those who had been there before (marked in marker on the inside of one of the walls) and had a nice area for a picnic just outside the front entrance. The bad part of this one? It is literally in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, you can pick up a map at the Madison County Visitors Center that has the names and locations of all the bridges, so I was able to navigate my way there off that map.

The second one we visited was in Winterset City Park and is named the Cutler-Donahoe covered bridge which was built in 1870. It was smaller than the first and had less graffiti and signatures in it. The park itself also houses the Clark tower which I will write about on a another day.

If you are wanting more information on the bridges as well as directions you can click here:

Madison County Covered Bridges Map

All in all the Bridges made a great day trip for my kids and I. Top the day off with ice cream from the local ice cream shop and it is a perfect summer day trip. One more thing off my bucket list of things to see in this beautiful state.

~Laura

Gallery

Iowa summer sights 2015, Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Council Bluffs Iowa

What a weekend! We were in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area for a weekend long basketball tournament and had plenty of time to check out some sites in between games.

The Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge is a unique walking bridge that is suspended over the Missouri River. You start one side in Iowa and cross over into Nebraska. An interesting and fun way to stand in 2 states at once! Its unique “S” shaped curvature makes it even more fun to cross and the suspension concept allows for movement you can feel as you go across. Scary? Yes. But makes for some great views.

We stopped halfway across and watched the boats speed under us and also spent some time sitting on the bench at the midway point. The sights were awesome. There was a small carnival/ food show going on just below the bridge which made it interesting watching the rides. They also had a helicopter that was going up and down giving rides. It would fly low past the bridge and wave at the people walking.
The plaques at the end of the bridge say that the bridge was awarded the honor of being the world’s most spectacular pedestrian bridge by Travel+Leisure. It also states the bridge is built of twin 203 foot pylons and that 80 steel cables support its deck. The placard also states the bridge itself is 2300 feet in length making it the nations longest pedestrian bridge.



My kids loved the opportunity to stand in 2 states at once!

If you are looking for a neat adventure in this area that is free of charge and offers spectacular views, check this out! It was a find we tripped on when we left the basketball tournament at the CenturyLink Center, and is easily accessed from the downtown area. It would cover a travel spot in both Iowa and Nebraska and one I would recommend seeing.

Until the next stop!

 

Iowa summer sights 2015, tree in the middle of the road

I forgot to post this one! I have so many pictures I have to get to from this summer and the “Iowa sights” my kids and I experienced that I have not had time to write about. This is a “tree in the middle of the road” that is well-known in Iowa as a tourist stop. Not much to look at except that it is huge way bigger than I had planned or envisioned.

My daughter and I decided on a June afternoon to head out and find it. We drove the back gravel roads until I finally had to call my husband to come and show me where to go. Rumor has it several cars have run into it. Old wives tales say to avoid running around it 3 times (bad luck I guess?) but all the same… it is one of those bucket list things I want to say I have seen and now I can say it.

If ever in Iowa… look for the tree in the middle of the road! Directions can be found here:

Tree in the middle of the road, Iowa

Interesting little cemetary along the route, the church is gone.. but the steps remain. Records show a Methodist church was once there