30 September 2004

Eric looking for bugs and silvers.

17 September 2004

Hurricane Ivan

Throughout our travels we missed any bad weather. It did follow us around. Just after we left Nebrasksa they had very high winds. Just after leaving Georgia they had lots of rain.
But once we stopped, Hurricane Ivan came through the area. Power went out at about 8:00pm and the winds were very strong. One of the power workers was killed trying to reconnect power during the storm. We were fortunate that no major damage was caused by the storm although lots of trees were down around the towns.
David had to move a few fallen logs to get through and then was stopped at the bottom of the hill by two downed trees. The whole area was abuzz with people clearing trees, fixing roads and trying to regain power.
The creek was very full and trees had their root supports washed away so there were plenty of trees along the creek knocked down.
With no power we had no water. Also, the power fluctuations damaged our fridge so it wasn’t keeping things cool. With no idea when power would return and no water, we ended up staying the night with the Floyd family.
After a”breakfast of champions” made by David Floyd, we were able to return to a powered home.
We just had the edge of the hurricane. We can only imagine the much worse situation for those in Florida with four hurricanes going through in such a short time.

Many big trees fell - and all missed the mobile home and vehicle!
At least they now have a clear view of the creek.

16 September 2004

The Colorado Trip 2004

In September 2004 we had the opportunity to go to Colorado for the firm's Christmas party. The party was held early because the Australian MD was in the US at this time. Instead of just flying there with Lana, we decided to use some Vacation time and see some of the US and drive. This is the record of our adventure:

Day 1 - Georgia to North Carolina

Day 1 - Huntsville Space Center, Tennessee to Alabama, (Fireworks & Diesel)
Day 2 - Alabama to Mississippi
Day 3 - Mississippi to Tennessee to Arkansaw to Missouri

Day 3 - Elvis wasn't home
Day 4 - Missouri - Kansas, Kansas (via Russell Stover)
Day 5 - Kansas to Colorado
(& learning how to Mosey), Colorado
Day 6 - Colorado
Day 7&8 - Colorado (Chuck E Cheese), The Christmas Party, Nice Lana Sketch
Day 9 - Colorado to Nebraska (Denver Cathedral)
Day 10 - Nebraska to Iowa to Missouri
Day 11 - Missouri to Illinois (via Hannibal & Mark Twain)
Day 12 - Illinois to Georgia (via Superman and Metropolis)

How did we survive the long hours in the car?
Trek Conculsions.

Trek Conclusion

Some quick points:
  • We all survived the trip and enjoyed the travelling and seeing new things. No squabbling or major travel hassles.
  • The South is really a different culture to other parts. The US has many different cultures shared by one political system.
  • The children’s best things included Chuck E. Cheeses and the homeschooling families we visited. David and Lana really enjoyed meeting so many great people wherever we stopped.
  • There are lots of things to see and do that don’t cost too much money.
  • There really is a difference in Peak and Off-peak times. Once Labor Day (first Monday in September) is over, most tourist things slow down or stop.

iPod and iTunes

How did we survive cooped up in a car for all those miles?
All of our music collection is contained in our iPod - a device containg a 40gb hard disk the size of a cigarette packet.
The music is all in MP3 format, organised in the free iTunes software.
It works on both Windows and Macs and helps to categorise music by author, title, genre, album and so on as well as whatever playlists you can create. We have a playlist for each of the children with their favourite music and all of our audio books and educational CDs.
Whenever we purchase a CD we load it up into iTunes and put the CD away. No scratched or wrecked CDs. We don’t download “free” music from the Internet as there is just too much risk of viruses and spyware. We have purchased some music from the iTunes music store, but most are from CDs.
We even converted lots of our old LP records and singles (remember those big round black things?) and cassettes to MP3. This meant our entire music collection was all on the computer and much easier to transport to the US.
It is played in the car via the audio output through a cassette player.

15 September 2004

Day Twelve - Illinois - Kentucky - Tennessee - North Carolina - Georgia

The last day. However we had to stop somewhere interesting so went to the Illinois Information Center. We discoverd Metropolis - the home of Superman - and were given discount vouchers for the museum. There is only one town in the US called Metroplois and they made a deal to be called the home of Superman, built a huge Statue of Superman and had a museum for tourists.
Also in Metropolis is the restored Fort Massac which had been used by the French, British and Americans at various times, until it was put in the hands of a caretaker who sold off the walls as building materials for the locals. He took care of himself very well. It was restored and the children had a good run around.
Finally we arrived home, exhausted but glad we had discovered some more of America.

Truth - Justice - and the American Way
In Metropolis, Illinois

14 September 2004

Day Eleven - Missouri - Illinois

We visited Hannibal, MI, the birthplace of Mark Twain and home to lots of Tom Sawyer exhibits. In the Mark Twain visitor Center we began with a video, and then browsed the museum. We saw a photo of the Printing machine on which Mark Twain wasted a lot of money. We had listened to a radio play about this machine from homeschool Radio shows and it was great to actually see the machine.
We then went for a walk through Mark Twain’s boyhood home and the others that were the basis for Tom Sawyer’s town. The children saw the fence that was white washed in such an entrepreneurial way.
We stayed the night in Mt Vernon, Illinois

The white fence of Tom Sawyer
in Hannibal, Missouri

13 September 2004

Day Ten - Nebraska - Iowa - Missouri

After a very nice breakfast made by Anne (some really sweet yummy sticky bun thing and a breakfast loaf). The children continued to play, and we talked.
David did some computer things with Troy and we all finally left at 2:00pm to continue our trek.
The information center in Missouri was very helpful. They suggested an alternative route home which we followed and provided lots of useful information (as well as restrooms).
We ended up in St Josephs Missouri (MI)

Our Nebraska Hosts (Madison was away) -
showing us great hospitality and a yummy breakfast

12 September 2004

Day Nine - Colorado - Nebraska

We started the day at 5:15am to get to the Denver Cathedral for Mass at 6:30 am. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a beautiful church built from 1906 to 1911 and has some fantastic stained glass windows and beautiful traditional altar. As the Mass finished the sun began to rise illuminating the windows. Like a new dawn all these images of scripture began to glow. No wonder the illiterate people of the middle ages knew their bible - it was told to them through innumerable stained glass windows in churches across Christendom. With the children, we pointed out various scenes including the Annunciation, Nativity and many more. For more details see here.

One of the beautiful stained glass windows
in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Then began the long drive to another homeschooling family living just South of Omaha, Nebraska - and our next host family.
After a long drive with few stops we arrived at our hosts' home. It worked out they were having their regular local Catholic family gathering and prayer night. Once more, before we could introduce the children they were inside playing with the other children.
Our hosts had very carefully organised things so we could all have our own rooms, but the boys wanted to sleep with their boys and the girls with their girls. A quick re-arrangement and they were done. Our families got along very well and the adults chatted till late, interspersed with a few “suggestions” to the children to go to sleep.

11 September 2004

Another nice Chucky Cheese sketch

Lana and Rose - from the busy Chuck E Cheese portrait machine

The Christmas Party

In the evening Ariel and I went to the work Christmas Party (the actual reason for being here). It was at a French restaurant south of Denver and it was a fun night. Ariel was able to experience a “fancy” restaurant and found that she enjoyed more of the food than she thought she might.
At the work Christmas parties it is a tradition to give a prize for the silliest thing a staff member has done during the year. In the US this is called the “Kangaroo Tail Award”. Last year David “won” the prize for calling his boss on the morning of our arrival at what he thought was 9:15am. Actually the time difference was 2 hours the other way and it was 5:15 am in Denver.! Oops.
This year’s prize was awarded to a staff member that had organised to go to the airport with another member and arranged to meet them about half an hour away to save doubling the travelling time. About 20 minutes down the road, he suddenly realised he didn’t have his passport and had to return to his home, thereby removing every benefit of meeting the others! A worthy winner. Who won? David. Again.

Peter - from the Chuck E Cheese portrait machine

Day Seven and Eight - Colorado

We had a fun morning getting to know Dennis and Cheryl and then whilst Dennis had to go to work, we went out to Krispy Kreme, Barnes and Noble and a park/playground.
In the January 2004 issue of Bruggie Tales we discussed Krispy Kremes, but Lana still hadn’t been to one. So this was an important cultural icon to visit. We bought two dozen doughnuts, made up of 4 each of a number of flavours. We then cut them into quarters and we all tried them between our host's children and all of us. We were unable to get the fresh hot doughnuts, as the machines go from 5 to 11 AM and PM.
We met Sharon of the Head Office and David was able to show his Denver office to the rest of the family.
Then we went to an amazing place for dinner - Chuck E. Cheese’s. This is a sort of restaurant, but mostly amusement arcade. First you walk in and all members of the family are stamped with an infra red stamp which can only be read under a special light. In this way, children could only leave accompanied by matching adults.
Then you could buy a (quite average) pizza and lots of tokens. These tokens are used in a huge array of game machines. There are also non token entertainments such as huge climbing frame that goes around the room similar to air conditioning ducts, and some climbing frames for toddlers.
It was a riot of noise and colours, children everywhere with parents following them. Some parents also played some of the games and helped their children find ways to use their tokens. One interesting machine was a “sketching” machine. It took a digital photo and then rendered it like a pencil drawing. Peter’s picture on this page is one example.
The Saturday the children just wanted to stay at the hotel and NOT drive anywhere. It was a rest day and we spent the time at the hotel.

Inside Chuck E. Cheese - some dining tables surrounded
by children running around and enjoying themselves.

9 September 2004

Day Six - Colorado

This was a slow start. We had done a lot of driving and were basically at our destination. We arrived at Dennis and Cheryl’s home at about midday. We had arranged to stay at their place via an internet email group for homeschooling families with four or more children. David has been on this group for some time and had gotten to know them all pretty well. He had asked who was on the way and we had a couple of volunteers.
Before I could introduce the children, they were already inside playing with our host's children. We had a nice lazy days getting aquanted and we joined them at the eldest boy’s soccer practice.
Dennis was away on business but was able to finish early and arrive home late that evening.

Our Denver host Family (Dennis was at work) - great tour guides
showing us the best places (Krispy Kreme, Barnes & Noble and Playground)

8 September 2004

Day Five - Colorado

We then had a long drive, stopping at Castle Rock in Colorado. At the Applebees Grill and Bar restaurant the waitress spoke very fast to us. David looked at her and said, “Hold on. That was way too fast. Let’s try that again, a bit slower.” We were used to the Southern accent - slow with care taken in each and every word.

Welcome to “Colorful” Colorado -
Broken weathered boards with faded white paint.
Not a tree in sight across a brown plain.

Day Five - Kansas - Colorado

Dodge City - the home of Boot Hill and cowboys, gunfighters and Saloons. We arrived at Midday to a load siren wailing so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves talk. It lasted for about 5 minutes just as we stopped at the information center. David asked the men behind the counter, “What’s the siren for?” They looked at him and replied, “What siren?” With a smile, David said, “Don’t give me that. Tell us.” It is sounded every Wednesday at 12:00 midday. It is the Tornado Warning system. If you hear that (other than on Wednesday’s at 12:00) you are to go to the nearest shelter as a Tornado is coming!
They were very friendly at the information center and provided us with lots of information. They even gave each of the children a Marshall’s badge, on the proviso they follow 3 rules: Obey your parents, always wear a seatbelt and don’t let your parents drive too fast.
As we signed the guest book, we were given a pin to place where we were from in a map of the US or one of the World. As Australia was more interesting to them than just Georgia, we put another one somewhere near Goulburn.
We then went to the Boot Hill Museum. The self guided tour started with a video, then a small museum on boot hill near the famous Boot Hill cemetary, and then the replica of Front Street, modelled after the Front Street from 1870. However, as this was just after Labor Day - the official end to all things “Summer” and the holidays, it resembled a ghost town. Many tourist attractions only operate to Labor day. Once all the school children lose their freedom, their business slows right down.
As we were meandering through the buildings, examing the displays, we reached the end of the street. The old schoolhouse had a sign “open”, but it looked very quiet. Ariel wanted to go in, so we did. Inside was a chap doing some leatherwork and we had a good time learning how he made the fancy marking on the leather.
David said, “Well, we better mosey out of here,” and the man replied, “Do you know how to Mosey?” We answered (skeptically), “No” and he said, “Here, let me show you,” and he reached for his hat (“Need a hat to Mosey Properly”)
Place your heels at a right angle then move them slightly apart. Put your thumbs in your belt, bow your knees (like a cowboy that has been riding too many horses), make a mean expression and then saunter along. He had all the children practice.
Then a lady came in and our host said, “She knows how to Mosey”, and she immediately did the Mosey as we had just been instructed, although she said she needed a hat to do it properly. But the mean expression was pretty important. A side visit ending up being one of the more memorable highlights of the trip!

James learning how to Mosey
at Boot Hill, Dodge City

7 September 2004

Day Four - Kansas

Whilst driving through Iola, KS, we saw a sign for Russell Stover warehouse direct candy. That sounded like a good idea so we followed the signs. Russell Stover makes Whitman’s chocolates and many in it’s own name too. They had lots of Easter and out of season chocolates and lollies (candy) as well as seconds - the ones that taste just as nice but were not quite the right shape or size. They are all over the country, but we were going past so purchased some chocolates.

Looking for chocolate bargains at the Russell Stover factory

Driving across Kansas was strangely familiar. It is a very similar landscape to the area between Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. If you drive down the Hume Highway, the surrounding area of gradual hills, lots of fields and sparse townships was the same as Kansas. Also, when we did arrive at the towns, we noted how similar in style it was to country towns like Goulburn, Tarcutta and Wangaratta. Other than everyone driving on the other side of the road of course!
Lana picked up a brochure detailing the Kansas wildflowers at Fort Scott. It showed the flower with its season and other information. We were able to stop along the side of the road and match up our list.
We finally stopped in Hutchinson, KS.

Day Four - Missouri - Kansas

In driving across the US we decided to travel on the secondary highway routes, rather than the major Interstate roads, those designated with an “I”, such as the I40 and I70. In this way, rather than zoom along at 75 miles an hour, we normally went about 60 or 65 mph with occasionally stops and slower speeds going through the towns.
We travelled to Fort Scott, Kansas (KS), right on the border of Missouri. Fort Scott was an important Fort during the Civil War and served as a Hospital and home for refugees. For a small fee we were able to go on a self guided tour and explore the various buildings. The children were able to climb all over some cannons and wagons, look into nooks and crannies and basically have a good run around without worrying anyone.

Red Wheat - a Kansas winter wheat crop brought over by the Mennonites
(More Info)

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6 September 2004

Day Three - Mississippi - Tennessee - Arkansas - Missouri

The first stop of the day was a side trip for educational purposes to Memphis TN - the home of Elvis. First we had to explain who Elvis was to the children. We stopped outside Gracelands and took some photos from the street, then stopped in the souvenir store next door.
Going through Arkansas (AR) (pronounced Arkansaw - why? It just is.) we saw maturing cotton fields, which tied in well to the cotton fields we saw during our trip to Douglas last month.
We basically made up time this day and ended up in Springfield, Missouri (MO), with the children once more enjoying the hotel pool.

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Day Three - Elvis wasn't home

Elvis wasn't available to see us.

Next Post

5 September 2004

Day Two - Alabama - Mississippi

Being Sunday, we started off at the local Catholic Church. We noticed a couple of families taking a lot more interest in the Mass. Afterwards we saw them chatting outside, so David asked them, “Do you guys homeschool?”. They replied, “Yes”, and we made some new friends. Whilst the children played in the playground, the adults and older children chatted for an hour or so. Then Davin and Janet invited us to their place for Breakfast/Lunch. Their children had been reading about early colonial times and wanted to try out apple and cinnamon pancakes which were included in one of the books. They said that if we were willing to join in their experimental breakfast we were welcome. So Lana helped chop up apples and we all talked while an enormous breakfast of eggs, pancakes, omelette, two types of sausage and the experimental pancakes began to pile up on the table. It was a feast which quickly disappeared once all the children had their fill.

Our Alabaman Family welcomed us into their home after Mass.

It was quite a busy time at their home with their six children and ours in various corners of the house. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we ended up leaving at 4:00 pm - after cancelling our next few nights accommodation bookings.
We zipped across back to the US Space and Rocket Center and bought Lana and her mum’s souvenir pins,(and the hat Peter left behind) then travelled a couple of hours to Corinth, Mississippi (MS).

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4 September 2004

Day One - Tennessee - Alabama

After briefly going through Tennessee (TN) we finally crossed into Alabama (AL) and stopped in Scottsboro. The reason? Unclaimed Baggage.
This is a store which contains unclaimed baggage from all sorts of transportation and sells it at very low prices. There is no guarantee what is for sale, as it is all forgotten luggage, but there is an amazing selection of stuff. The things people leave behind and don’t claim! We obtained books, toys, and games. They had video, electronics, clothes (lots and lots), strollers and so on.

This is a great combination of items for sale in Tennessee.

Update: This stopover is now more famous for when the car broke down on the way home from our last big trip. See
here and here and here for the terrible tale.

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Day One - Georgia - North Carolina

First stop was to go via Home Depot and picked up this month’s craft kit. Although they hadn’t set up yet, they knew us so just gave us 5 kits and the relevant badges. We checked the post office box and off we went. Because of the mountains in our area, the best route was to hop into North Carolina, across to Tennessee and then down to Alabama. To accompany us we played “The Air Adventures of Biggles”. We found Biggles and other old time radio shows via the internet.
In North Carolina (NC) part of the National Forest Service is the “Ocoee Whitewater Center”. This is a very interesting stretch of river and forest where groups can go whitewater rafting. Groups hire the boats and a guide and with appropriate safety gear go off down the river. At the end (and a few spots on the way for less intrepid souls) buses await the boats to return the customers to their cars at the start. It looked great fun - but not with little ones!

The group at the back is stuck in a still spot and are having great trouble getting back into the stream.

Next post

Day One - Huntsville, Alabama

Next stop was Huntsville, Alabama - the home of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. This is an older launch center which is now a museum containing exhibits, older rockets, a space shuttle, Imax theater and more. We became members for $80 (saving $20 if we had just paid the entrance fees) and only had time to see the museum and Imax and gift shop. Luckily the membership means we get free entry at any time for the next 12 months and reciprocal deals at lots of other science museums (including Questacon in Canberra!)
The museum included many hands on activities, including a virtual reality visit to the space station where Ariel and David were strapped into a pseudo space ship. At the front of the ship they saw a video with the “ship” being buffeted in synchronised moments to match the film.
The most odd display was the interior of a section of a space rocket, but the insides were at an angle to the floor. Although we stood on the flat level base, everything else was at an angle of about 20 - 30 degrees. We felt that we should have been falling over!

Eric is standing up straight - everything else is at an angle.
(Note James holding on and Peter falling sideways)

The boys got to try “mountain climbing on Mars” which was rock climbing like they did at the Blairsville Bank Customer appreciation day.

Also on display were spacesuits and all the bits of which they are made. Seeing these inspired us to listen again to the audio book of “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” by Robert A. Heinlein, a tale of a lad that won a space suit and whilst testing it out is kidnapped by aliens. It is a very good book.
The Imax was pretty impressive. Patrons all lay down in specially designed seats and the movie plays on the dome like screen. It is so big that you peripheral vision is part of the film, too. The movie we saw was space station, detailing the deployment and construction of the International Space Station.

The Bruggie’s Trek

David's work was having their Christmas party early (September) and it was being held in Denver, Colorado. This presented a perfect opportunity to see more of the country with the whole family. So, on 4th September the children waved good-bye to the house and we began our trek across the US - eight little Bruggies in a Suburban, with a map and general directions.
We had organized the first few night’s accommodation, and a few days around the stay in Denver. The rest we would see what happened.