Kentucky - Puzzled by Kentucky

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In Kentucky we went to a most puzzling place. Kentucky was a great state. We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Puzzle Fun Dome, and the Kentucky Derby Museum.

One of my top restaurants is a fast food chain, and that chain is Culver's. Yes, Culver's is a top restaurant, and not just because of the ice cream. No, they know how to make some good burgers. Unlike McDonald's or Burger King, Culver's has a good balance of flavor. The bun to meat ratio is perfect. Then you throw some ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions on, and you have an awesome burger.

However recently Culver's has decided to go crazy and put the ingredients on the bottom of the burger, instead of the top. This throws off the whole taste because if it's on top then you taste a perfect mix of burger and ingredients. If the ingredients are on the bottom, then the ingredients overtake the meat, and you just taste ingredients. If you get past that matter though, it's a great place. I especially like how they have an ice cream flavor of the day. My favorite flavor is Boston Cream Pie.

Puzzle Fun Dome has nothing to do with puzzles; however, it has a bunch to do with fun. Puzzle Fun Dome has a nine hole indoor mini golf, some inflatables, a movie theater, a rock wall, glow in the dark basketball, mini bowling, and arcade games. Chloe and I spent most of our time playing on their awesome inflatables. My favorite one was a regular jump house without the net. Then you add two sticks with cushions on the ends instead of weights. You would swing your "weight" at the other person and try to knock him or her off a cylinder. I had so much fun whacking Chloe off of the cylinder. They also had a large slide and an obstacle course jump house. The nine hole mini golf course was really lame, though, compared to all the other activities. One hole was being fixed, and the whole course needed repair. The rock climbing and glow in the dark basketball were fun though.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is the number one hands-on museum on the trip. They had two amazing hands-on exhibits there. The first one was betting stations. You pick which horses you thought would get first, second, and third. Then you receive your ticket and watch a video of the horse race. If you picked one of the horses right, the TV would show you how much money you would have won. I could have spent hours playing that, but unfortunately they had the videos on a cycle, so you watched about seven videos, then they repeated. Their second amazing hands on activity was horse racing. They had a plastic horse with a TV screen in front of it. You had three buttons. One made the horse move right, another made the horse move left, and another made the horse go faster.  Because of that button, I won almost every time.

Kentucky was a blast. We experienced Culver's, derbys, and domes (oh my!)  It still puzzles me though, how I lost that last race.

-The Son

Kentucky - Where the Kids Learn to Bet on the Ponies

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Have you ever bet on horses a million times and didn't even have to pay a penny out of your pocket? I did in Kentucky. In Kentucky we visited Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum, Zaxby's restaurant, and Puzzle's Fun Dome.

The Kentucky Derby Museum was awesome! They had a ton of interactive exhibits. My favorite exhibit was a betting machine. First you place your bet on the horse you think will win and which horse you think will get second and third. Then you sit down on a bench and cheer them on to first, second, and third place. Levi and I played it for half an hour. Another fun exhibit was three plastic racing horses that you ride and try to beat your opponent.

The Louisville Slugger Museum was much better than I thought. I thought it would be boring because I'm not really into baseball. They had awesome batting cages! I'm not as bad at hitting a softball than I thought! I made contact with every ball except three. The Louisville Slugger Museum which we were able to take a tour of makes wooden bats.

In Kentucky we went to a huge church. It was the biggest church I've ever seen! Last week over sixteen thousand people came to the Saturday and Sunday services. I really liked the service because it had some humor, and I actually understood him. If we end up living in Kentucky, I would love to go there again.

 Zaxby's was a delicious restaurant. They are famous for their chicken, but I think they should be famous for their sauce. It's called Zax sauce. It's the best sauce I have ever tasted! Trust me, I have eaten more sauces than you can count. The sauce is hard to explain what it tastes like, so I won't. You have to go there yourself to find out.

We went to a place called Puzzle's Fun Dome, and it was fun. They had five inflatables. One had two cylinders, and one person stood on each one. Each person also gets a plastic stick with two very soft and big pillow like ends. Then they fight and see who falls off first. They also had Cosmic basketball which is glow-in-the-dark basketball.

In conclusion Kentucky was one of my favorite states. I would highly recommend Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum, a big church, Zaxby's, and Puzzle's Fun Dome. By the way, I still have eight years until I can even think about real betting.

-The Daughter

Indiana – Speeding Through the Hoosier State

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Highly visible with Donate Life magnets displayed all over it, our van does turn some heads. Needless to say, I don’t want to brag about exceeding the speed limit, or the next thing I know we’ll have every state trooper on the lookout for us. Let’s suffice it to say, in honor of the Indy 500 Motor Speedway, we wanted to speed but rather maintained a law abiding speed throughout the entire Hoosier state. In fact, the only thing speeding in Indiana was the time.

Here are some highlights from our speedy week in Indiana:

Best Tourist Spot: Indy 500 Motor Speedway. The Hall of Fame Museum located inside the track could have been dull for those of us who aren’t particularly into racing - if it weren’t for the docent. Once again, the docent saved the museum with interesting stories. For example, we were looking at the “tropical rose” race car, and the docent walked up and told us about the recent pink race car in support of breast cancer awareness. The driver, whose name was Lloyd, was all decked out in pink from the car to his helmet. Appropriately they nicknamed him “Pink Floyd.” Wouldn’t it be great to have a blue and green Donate Life race car?!  I'm not sure about a good nickname for the driver yet, though...

Most Family Fun Spot: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. While Levi is getting too old for most children’s museums, this one held his interest, and of course, Chloe loves them.  The Children’s Museum of Indy always ranks high in the list of the best children’s museums, so when some friends talked about meeting there, we jumped at the opportunity to see them…and go to the museum. Before we knew it, we had spent all day at the museum!   There is so much to see that it really requires a full day.

Worst Closure: The Grounds Tour at the Indy 500 Speedway. The tours don’t operate in rain or snow, so imagine how disappointed we were when it snowed the day before our tour! Sadly we couldn’t ride the bus on the racetrack nor stand at the brickyard for pictures. Worse yet was knowing that we just missed it.

Most Beautiful Sight: Freshly fallen snow. Something I’ve never lost in adulthood is my love of waking up to freshly fallen snow. I especially love to see it still falling…when I’m at home, that is - not on a trip driving a minivan around the United States! I’m awful with measurements, but I’m guessing there were a few inches. Chloe was dying to have a snowball fight, so we bundled up with what little snow clothes we had and threw some snowballs around in the hotel’s courtyard…fun.

Best Meal: PF Chang’s.  Their lettuce wraps are delicious, especially with that sauce they whip together at the table.  In fact, they’re so good, I’d put them in one of the top 10 meals we’ve had on the trip!

Worst Meal: Hardee’s. We were short on time, so we desperately grabbed something to eat at the only place around – Hardee’s. As we sat down, Chloe commented, “I feel like I should be old and drinking coffee to eat here.”

New Foods: Chocolate marshmallow topping for popcorn. Oddly we’ve only seen this popcorn shaker flavor in Indiana. It sounds disgusting but think caramel corn or kettle corn. Yum.

A First for the Trip: Doing a puzzle. We were thankful that we were able to set up a table at the IUPUC campus in Columbus to sign up organ donors and raise awareness for organ donation. At a nearby table, a puzzle was sitting out for anyone who wanted to help assemble it. Since it's not something we can normally do on the trip, Levi and Chloe enjoyed working on that puzzle the entire time.

Biggest Revelation: On Mike’s birthday, we did something unusual and went to see a movie. During Tangled, there’s a scene where Rapunzel has the same fear that I have occasionally:  what happens when your dream is over?  Flynn responds, “When this is over, you'll find a new dream."  So simple, so powerful, and yet so comforting. We are living a dream on this amazing trip, and when the trip is over, we can dream a new dream.

Biggest Twinge of Homesickness: Being so close to home was just weird. All we had to do was hop on I74 and be in Illinois in a couple of hours.  (We didn't, but we could have.)

Best Drive: Meridian Street in Indy. Seeing all the historic homes, especially in the evening when they were lit for Christmas, was beautiful.

Worst Drive: The drive over from Ohio was snowy and a little slippery. Welcome to winter in the Midwest!

Biggest Surprise: You can do that with gingerbread?!? After attending the wonderful Christmas event at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, we enjoyed browsing the gingerbread houses on display and voting for our favorite. Chloe’s favorite was the giant gingerbread cup of hot chocolate. Mine was the gingerbread library with all the antique looking books made from fig newtons!  They're so cute.  Be sure to check out the pictures.

Biggest Disappointment: The cold.  We were taking a risk spending a week in Indiana in early December. It was cold and even a little snowy while we were there, but it certainly could have been worse.

Funniest Memory: Comedy Sportz - their Christmas theme show.  In one game each player took turns singing one and only one word of a Christmas song for as long as they could go without messing up. That was harder than it sounds! Try singing just “Rudolf” and stopping before “the red-nosed reindeer.”  We played our own version driving in the van.  It’s amazing how often you don’t know the next word, or you sing two words because they flow together.  We laughed and laughed when we duplicated this game in our van! 

Worst Memory: Mike’s sickness was lasting much longer than it seemed it should. We started to worry that it was something more serious and wondered what that meant for the rest of the trip. We just had to leave it in God’s hands though. As it turned out, he recovered from the nasty bug and is fine.

Best Memory: Laughing with friends. We hadn’t laughed with good friends in so long! It was wonderful that our friends drove over to meet us at the museum and then hang out afterwards. I’m thankful for their friendship. Our values are so close to each other, and it’s awesome spending time together as iron sharpens iron.

My IN Hike: What pipe dream was I thinking when I hoped to hike in Indiana in December?!? It snowed 2.5 inches when we were there, and we surely don’t have room to pack boots in the van!

What We Did Miss: Holiday World, Indiana Dunes, West Baden Springs Hotel, and so much more all recommended to us.

In Summary: The week we spent in Indiana went speeding by, but you certainly didn’t see a minivan with Donate Life magnets speeding by on your roads!

-The Mom

Indiana - The Way to the Boy's Heart is Through His Stomach

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In Indiana we saw what it was like in the 1800's. Given the time of year, we were also doing some special activities. We went to ComedySportz, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Indianapolis Speedway, and Father's birthday activities.

ComedySportz is a great idea. It is a funny competition of comedy where they have two teams. Personally I prefer Second City from our Alaskan cruise. Since ComedySportz had a score board, they could keep score throughout the evening. That made it a little more like a competition.

After that is Conner Prairie. Surprising as it is, Conner Prairie is actually a historic town that has houses where you can walk inside. We can't tell you how it looks in the day, but we do know how it looks at night because we went on their candlelight tour. Because they only have it during winter, we were blessed to be there at the right time. Luckily, the only bad part about the tour was the cold.

The rest of the tour was really fun. They had volunteers that were stationed at every house along the walk. After telling you their names and giving you information about the house, neighbors, city, or almost anything, they told a riveting short story about the town or neighbors. Every house had a different story. Tending to her sick husband, the wife told us her story.  Where in another house, the topic was a family getting ready for Christmas. Surprisingly, in one house there was even a party which means they provided us with hot cocoa and a ginger cookie. Because of the food, the tour went up another notch for me.

Apparently the Indianapolis Speedway is a big thing. I don't know much about race cars. Seeing the evolution of the race car was really cool though. The first race cars were pretty scary and, well, old. Chloe complained that they didn't have seatbelts. I liked the bullet cars from about 1970. Chloe and I also were able to sit in a model race car. It actually had enough legroom for me and a five year old kid to sit in there. Since then, I still haven't learned much about race cars.

My dad's birthday happened while we were in Indiana, and that was one of the most fun days on the trip. First we ate at P.F. Chang's China Bistro. Since they have some of the best sweet and sour chicken ever, I think they are in my top three Chinese restaurants. My mom and dad always order the lettuce wraps. Watching the movie Tangled in 3D was fun as well. Apparently they have improved the 3D technology from the old green and red glasses. The movie didn't use much 3D, but the parts that were in 3D were really good. That was my favorite part about the day.

Lastly dad took us to the Melting Pot for dessert. Since we had already eaten dinner at P.F. Chang's, we just ordered their chocolate fondue dip. That was amazing. I loved the rice crispy treats dunked in chocolate. Wishing I could have that again is easy.

Indiana was loads of fun. I loved Dad's birthday, ComedySportz, Conner Prairie, and the Indianapolis Speedway. Now I just want to see what it was like in the 60's when my dad was born.

-The Son

Indiana - Snow Day...No Way!

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Have you ever ice skated with no skates or had a snow ball fight sitting down on ice? I did both of those things in Indiana at the Children's Museum. In Indiana we also saw Comedy Sportz and Tangled, the movie.

Usually I hate watching sports, but Comedy Sportz was so funny mostly because it wasn't sports. It was comedy. There were two teams with four people on each team. One team was the blue team, and the other team was the red team. Then there was the audience who actually won the competition. That's right, the audience got the most points. Sadly, we didn't get the trophy, but we did get the satisfaction of beating the experts. At the end of the games the referee presented the blue team with the trophy, and then in slow motion all the people started fighting. Even that was funny with everyone walking around in slow motion ripping the other team's hair out.

One of the games was called, “The Do Run Run.” It was a fast song where each person had to rhyme with a one syllable name that they picked out in the beginning. For example, they would start with Sue. Then the first person would say, "I met a girl on the street, and her name was Sue.” Then the next person would say, "She gave me a clue.” Then they would keep going and going until someone messed up or took too long.

On my dad's birthday we went to watch Tangled. It was pretty good, but there were tons of songs. Rapunzel's hair was 70 feet long! I wish I could have hair like that. She had people braid her hair, and they put little flowers all over it. She lived in this huge tower. Oh, wait I shouldn't tell you any more. You'll have to watch the movie.

We ice skated on our socks at the Children's Museum. It was really fun because some friends met us there.  My favorite part was the snowball fight. The girls dominated the boys, and the kids dominated the adults. Some of the boys started to cheat and stand up when they were supposed to sit down. The girls still won though.

Overall Indiana was pretty fun. I don't really want to live there though because it’s not really an interesting state. I would highly recommend Comedy Sportz and the Children's Museum. By the way, I forgot to tell you the snowballs were just cotton balls, well, the snowballs at the museum, anyway, and the ice wasn't real ice.

-The Daughter

Ohio – A Thankful Time

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We were able to spend Thanksgiving in Ohio visiting family.  It was wonderful to spend the holiday with family, but Thanksgiving really shouldn’t be once a year. After you've had a transplant, it should be every day.  Each and every day we should give thanks to God for Annie, our hero. Without her desire to be an organ donor, Mike wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have a husband; our kids wouldn’t have a dad. Isn’t that worth being thankful every day…even the days we don’t see eye to eye?

Here are some highlights from Ohio:

Best Restaurant Meal:  Skyline Chili. Let’s be honest here:  the best meal was my mom’s lasagna, even surpassing Thanksgiving dinner, so I had to create a new category under the circumstances.

We stopped at Skyline Chili because of its notoriety but were a little skeptical; however, no beans won the kids over immediately while the cleanliness of the restaurant (at least this newer location) impressed the adults. While it definitely has a different taste, the chili was good. It’s almost BBQ-y loaded with shredded cheese, but it was good, fast, and cheap! Chloe said it was her favorite restaurant, surpassing even Panda Express.

Worst Meal:  The one where we ran out of Mom's leftover lasagna. Her lasagna, salad, and garlic bread with homemade apple pie for dessert is my ultimate comfort meal. We ate like royalty, not just once, but several times...until we ran out of leftovers.

Biggest Surprise:  Jeni’s ice cream. Jeni calls it "artisan" ice cream. It's certainly not your typical ice cream, that’s for sure! We sampled unique flavors like salty caramel, chocolate cayenne, sweet potato marshmallow, and buckeye…after all we were in Ohio. It was interesting and fun to try, but we all agreed that we prefer traditional ice cream.  Sorry, Jeni.

Biggest Disappointment:  How quickly the time with family went. It was great to see family and spend Thanksgiving together at my sister’s house...Thanks for hosting us!

Most Beautiful Spot:  Columbus Zoo Wildlights, the zoo’s annual Christmas light display. The lights were pretty, but the light show reflecting on the lake was spectacular! Synchronizing the lights to music just added to the beauty. We watched it several times, and Chloe and I could have stayed longer. It was a treasured moment breathing in the crisp air, viewing the lights, hearing the music, and sipping hot chocolate with the kids...ahhhhh.

Best Tourist Spot:  The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton. Sadly we had to cut our visit short due to bad weather. Mike and Levi were sorely disappointed since they were of the opinion it was the coolest museum ever. We didn’t even have time to ride a bus to see Kennedy’s Air Force One because they spent so much time ogling at the planes. Chloe was upset to find that half of the exhibits in the hands-on area were out of order. The ones that did work were fun, though, like the exhibit illustrating how the tail hook stops planes during landing on an air craft carrier.

Worst Tourist Spot:  Anywhere close to a mall on Black Friday!

Worst Drive:   Rush hour in Columbus the evening before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what we were thinking driving then!

Biggest Twinge of Homesickness:  Cookie decorating. Our family is huge into Christmas cookies, especially the decorated ones. My mom surprised us by baking a batch to decorate while we were together. It was nice to continue that treasured tradition together, especially since we wouldn't be baking any cookies this year.

Most Fun:   Blue Jackets hockey game. Our brother-in-law hooked us up with suite (and sweet!) seats. It was so much fun! The kids now say hockey is their favorite spectator sport because of that experience and the fast pace of NHL hockey.

Funniest Memory:  Playing the game Catch Phrase with family:  guys vs girls, of course. This game always has us laughing!

Worst Memory:  The service advisor came over and sat down next to me to discuss the results from our vehicle’s inspection. Anytime they sit down, you know it’s bad news…

Best Memory:  Decorating my sister’s Christmas tree with her. We haven’t decorated a Christmas tree together in 20 years. Chloe and I really enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because we didn't have a tree on the road, but I think even if we did, we’d still enjoy it! Chloe got right in there and helped with the branches, lights, and everything. The best part, though, was knowing we wouldn’t have to box it all up after Christmas.  ha ha

My OH Hike:  Nothing. We were too excited being with family.

Biggest Revelation:  Kids grow so fast! We totally missed my nephew as a baby. He’s walking and starting to talk now.  He was so much fun - and such a cutie!  It makes me realize how quickly Levi, Chloe, and even yes, even my nephew will be off to college...Now that’s a scary thought!

What We Did Miss:  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, C.O.S.I. Museum, Cedar Point, Young’s Jersey Dairy, Hocking Hills State Park, and others all recommended to us.

In Summary:  We're thankful for so much but especially Mike's donor, Annie, his life saving transplant, our families, and a great week in Ohio. Our only problem was not eating any Buckeyes - the chocolate peanut butter kind, that is!

-The Mom

Ohio - A Real Blast...Literally and Figuratively!

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Have you ever been to a hockey game that whenever the home team scored they fired a cannon? We did in Ohio. In Ohio we visited a Blue Jackets hockey game, the Columbus Zoo, and my aunt and uncle's house.

The hockey game was so much fun! My uncle works at a ticket station. He gets extra tickets in good seats a lot. Our seats were in a larger area with more space and comfortable chairs. At our seats we also had little TVs that we could watch the hockey game on if we couldn't see it. I think hockey games are definitely my favorite sport to watch. The Blue Jackets didn't win, but each time they scored, someone fired a cannon.

The hockey game was a match between the Blue Jackets and the Red Wings. Now, I know what you're thinking:  Red Wings is a really weird name for a hockey team.  Their mascot was of all octopus! (The Blue Jackets mascot is a cannon because they tried to do the Blue Jackets thing for the Civil War, not yellow jackets wearing blue jackets.)  During little breaks in the game, sometimes they would have kids around eight or nine years old come out on the ice and do a short hockey game.

We went to the Columbus Zoo around Christmas. They had a light show, hot chocolate, Christmas lights, and hot cider. The light show was incredible! One of the songs the lights were coordinated with was from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I don't know what it is called, but it's my favorite Christmas song. The hot chocolate was delicious! We didn't get to see too many animals since it was nighttime, but we did see monkeys on a playground specially built for them. It looked like a extremely fun playground, so fun I wanted to play on it. Some of the monkeys were playing tag, and that was fun to watch. The Columbus Zoo was the best zoo on the trip!

My favorite part about seeing my aunt, uncle, and cousin, aside from seeing them, was helping them put up their Christmas tree! I had a lot of fun at their house, and we even had some media come out to their house. We had our Thanksgiving meal at my aunt and uncle’s house. The media ran a huge family clip, and out of everyone there, they wanted my dad to stir the potatoes!  (My dad never helps with the Thanksgiving cooking.)

Overall Ohio was amazing! I would recommend going to the Columbus Zoo especially around Christmas and to a hockey game. Oh, I forgot to tell you that the cannon didn't have a real cannonball in it.

-The Daughter

Ohio - This Museum Really Was the Bomb

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Imagine yourself enjoying some nice chocolate ice cream when all of a sudden, it gets really spicy. If that happens, you must be at Jeni's. In Ohio we did many fun things. One of which was see the Columbus Blue Jackets play. We also went to the Columbus Zoo and Jeni's Ice Cream. Another great thing we did was go to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are Ohio's National Hockey League team. They play at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. We were able to go because of my uncle's job. After watching nonstop fun, I have to say that hockey is my favorite sport to watch. I'm a major baseball fan, and I like to watch a little football too, but hockey is non-stop action. What also made it fun was the executive seats we sat in.

The Columbus Zoo was started by the famous animal man, Jack Hanna. Sadly we arrived a little late in the year to see many animals, and the animals we did see were indoors (except for the penguins).  Luckily though they had Wildlights. Wildlights is millions of Christmas decorations in the zoo. Every half an hour they also had lights that were coordinated to music. I especially like the light show because they played Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Then we walked around the zoo looking at lights.

Jeni's Ice Cream is an ice cream shop with a twist. They change up the flavors. For example they have cayenne chocolate which is cayenne flakes in chocolate ice cream. Another wacky flavor they have is salty caramel. The ice cream wasn't bad, but when I think of ice cream, I think of rich, creamy vanilla or smooth chocolate not salty caramels. If you're in the mood for something different, though, Jeni's is the place to go.

The National Museum of the Air Force is one of the best museums I have ever been to. They had thousands of planes from the World War II Flying Fortress to the B2. Half the time you would look up and see the under side of a wing, instead of the ceiling. Another cool part was looking at all the planes my dad had built models of when he was a kid. I was able to sit in the cockpit of a Thunderbird and some other airplane I can't name. In the first plane's cockpit there were millions of switches and buttons. They even had an ejection lever which didn't work. The second plane was a two seater. It had fewer switches and buttons, but you also couldn't see out of the plane. You had to use radar to see. While I would have loved to stay the whole day and look at the planes, we had to leave.

Ohio had fun stuff from planes to lights. Another great activity was the hockey game. Most of all we had some spicy chocolate.

-The Son

West Virginia - Where Congress Used to Hide

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In West Virginia there were no Hatfields or McCoys around those parts.  Instead we met great people, like a lady whose mother had passed away recently. Her mother, a registered organ donor, was older, but her tissue was still able to be used for burn victims. The lady was thankful that her mother was a donor because it made such a difference knowing her mother was able to help people.

Here are some highlights from West Virginia:

Best Meal:  Z Brick Oven Pizza. Z’s pepperoni roll was surprisingly tasty. I normally don’t like pepperoni, but this was so light on the pepperoni, that it really tasted more like salty cheese bread, and that I do like!

Biggest Surprise:  How moist a biscuit can be! Tudor’s Biscuit World has the largest, moistest, most delicious biscuits I’ve ever had.  Typically I’ll pass on biscuits because they’re so dry but not Tudor’s.  I was wondering if I’d be full after eating just a biscuit sandwich, but considering they were the size of a hamburger bun, I was plenty full.

Biggest Disappointment:  The cost of admission to the Cold War era bunker under the famous Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs. It was $30 apiece and hasn’t gotten good reviews on Trip Advisor since a different company took over the tours. We just couldn’t justify that much money with such bad reviews, but I would have loved to see where Congress would have stayed all safe and snug during a national emergency. It seems appropriate for Congress that they would be holed up under a fancy resort, spending our tax dollars like crazy, even in a crisis.

Must See Thanks to Hollywood:  Marshall University’s memorial fountain. It honors the football players and staff that died in the tragic plane crash that inspired the movie “We Are Marshall.”  Actually we didn’t know it was a fountain and couldn't figure out what it was until we learned that every year, on the anniversary of the crash, the fountain is turned off until spring. We also had fun tossing a Nerf football on the Marshall University quad on such a nice sunny day with the leaves rustling under our feet.

Worst Closure:  Beckley Coal Mine. It’s sooo West Virginia, but we were too late in the year.

Most Beautiful Spot:  New River Gorge and the famous bridge spanning it that’s in practically every West Virginia photograph. With the late afternoon sun shining on it, it was beautiful. I can’t imagine how stunning it would have been two weeks prior with all the fall leaves still on the trees.

Best Tourist Spot:  Mountain State Miniature Golf.  Normally I don't choose a mini golf course for the best tourist sight, but at this course each hole represented something unique for West Virginia. What a great idea!  The course needed some repair, but it was fun playing all the state themed holes.

Worst Tourist Spot:  Tamarack.  Basically it’s an arts and craft bazaar for local West Virginia artists. We breezed through because we just aren’t shoppers. There’s only so much room in the van, and that’s already taken with our suitcases and other necessities.

Best Bathroom:  We’ve used far more gas station bathrooms than one person should in their entire lifetime; however, at an Exxon in White Sulphur Springs, we experienced one of the best bathrooms on the trip. It was bright, clean, and even had toilet seat cleaner!

Best Drive:  Through the mountains at sunset.

Seen on the Drive:  Driving through West Virginia, we noticed three things over and over and over again:  cemeteries, churches, and gentleman's clubs.  We're not sure if there's any connection between them or not...

Funniest Memory:  Driving down the road Chloe said, out of the blue, that when we have a house again someday, she wants to have a sign in our yard so we can write messages on it. We didn’t understand what she was talking about, so she said, “You know, like…(reading a nearby marquee) Dancing Girls Apply Within.” Somehow, I don’t think that’s the actual message she wants to communicate on our yard sign!

Worst Memory:  Removing thorns. The disc golf course we played through the woods was impossible.  Attempting to retrieve his Frisbee, Levi ventured into a nasty sticker bush. I’m not sure exactly what kind of plant it was because we just call them “sticker bushes,” but they’re nasty in West Virginia. The thorns penetrate through your jeans!

Best Memory:  Playing catch in the hotel room with a soft ball and saying something we were thankful for every time we dropped the ball. We played for a long time because we have so much to be thankful for!

My WV Hike:  Actually we attempted several places. Beartown State Park was a little, hidden gem, but a ½ mile boardwalk trail was just too short to be a hike. Our second attempt was the Greenbrier River Trail, which is a very nice rail trail, but it made us want to bike, and the bike rental shop closed at 1pm. Lastly, we tried Greenbrier State Forest, but as Chloe mentioned the bear signs and hunting zones frightened us from hiking. In a last ditch effort, we pulled out the frisbees and went disc golfing at the course in the park, and we finally achieved my hike! The views and golfing were nice, too.

Biggest Revelation:  That’s why they call it the Mountain State! The entire state is hilly - mountainous, I guess you could say...

What We Did Miss: White water rafting, Carnegie Hall, Cass Scenic Railroad, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Blennerhassett Island where Aaron Burr plotted to take over the government, Beckley Coal Mine, and others all recommended to us.

In Summary:  West Virginia, we didn’t see any feuding, just mountains and great people!

-The Mom

West Virginia - Mountain Momma Take Me Home...But Not to the Opera

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West Virginia showed us some of the best of the "West."  In West Virginia we went to one of the most interesting mini golf courses. We also went to a disc golf course and Tamarack.

Mountain State Miniature Golf is a mini golf that is unique to West Virginia.  They are the first course we have ever seen make holes that have something to do with their state.  It was so creative.

The first hole had a bridge to putt over. It was a bridge found in West Virginia.  My favorite hole started with putting through a toll booth. Then you hit your ball down a series of ramps that are parallel to each other.  If you make it down that before you reach five shots, then you face another toll booth, and then you finally reach the hole.  The other neat part about this hole is the detail they put into the toll booths. They even had an EZ Pass lane. The only problem with the course was the greens were a little torn up.  Besides that I give this course a four and three fourths out of five.

Greenbrier State Forest was one place that Mom wanted to go hiking. While the hike was lame, the frisbee golf was really fun. They had eighteen holes, but the back nine were under construction. It was still really fun though. On one hole they had a super steep drop. Another hole had you throwing your frisbee 500 feet. One problem with the course, though, is all the thorny plants. The second problem is the signs that tell you what to do if you encounter a bear. It was really scary because of the thought of being attacked by a bear.

Tamarack is one of West Virginia's top attractions. I call it Public Enemy Number Three a.k.a. an art gallery. Public Enemy Number Two is the opera.  (I love it when the fat lady sings.)  Public Enemy Number One is any formal ceremony. Anyway it was packed. The food line was a thousand people long. The price for a magnet that was shaped like the state was fifteen dollars.

West Virginia had great golf and my number three enemy. It also had some boring hikes and a great mini golf. I think West Virginia showed me the best and the worst of the "West."

- The Son