Dad grew up with an American Flyer train set. As a kid, Joe played with Dad’s train set. Here it looks like Joe is playing with a model train set outside our hotel.
This cave really is mammoth. It has over 400 miles of explored and mapped passages in a 7 mile distance above ground, the most in the world. They discover about 3-4 more miles each year.
Natural entrance. There technically are 27 entrance and only a third of them are natural.
During the 1800’s tour guides would allow people to use smoke to write their name on the ceiling of the cave. You can see some more recent white scratched names. We saw a “Joe” and had to give Mr. Junior Ranger Joe a hard time! haha!
On our 4 hour tour today, the ranger pointed out a union solder, Wad Wallace, who in 1863 wrote his name on the wall. He would later become a pharmacist.
Gypsum flowers on the ceiling. Gypusm is a widely distributed mineral consisting of hydrous calcium sulfate that is used especially as a soil amendment as well as plaster of paris and as building materials in plaster, board products, and tiles and blocks. It grows at a rate of about a fingernail width each year!
At a rest stop along our tour. You can see more names on the cave wall.
Joe is tricking Mom that he has reception on his phone 300 plus feet underground! She believed him! haha!! No wonder he and Erik couldn’t seem to keep a straight face!
Mammoth cave, because of the sandstone “cap” that is on top of the limestone, is a relatively dry cave and therefore does not have many cave formations in it. A small area of the cave that is lacking the sandstone cap above the limestone does have water seep in and in this room, called the drapery room, you see beautiful flow stone.
Last Junior Ranger stop for Joe! He acquired 6 Junior Ranger badges this trip. Only about 300+ more to go to catch them all!
Inside this building is a replica of Lincoln’s log cabin birth home. There were 56 steps leading up to the memorial for the 56 years he lived.
Wonderful vacation! I asked Erik what he liked best on this trip and he said exploring and climbing at Pedestal Rock. Joe said his favorite was Blue Spring where he lost the polarizing filter off the camera and ultimately dove down to retrieve it. Mom liked the Lincoln Museum which was by far the best interactive and informative museum she’s ever visited. Dad copied Mom and agreed that the Lincoln museum was great. Overall though, the best part was spending time with family! Wish David could have joined us, but maybe next time.
Graceland wasn’t exactly on the bucket list of things to see, but it was interesting.
In front of Elvis’ home, which wasn’t as enormous as envisioned.
Beautiful pieces of stain glass in the foyer and living room.
The kitchen was certainly a 70’s kitchen with the classic avocado sink and coffee pot!
Elvis had the same counter-top material as we have on our kitchen table TODAY!!! Paul’s parents had good tastes:)
The staircase to the basement was covered with mirrors on 3 sides… trippy!
The ceiling and walls in Elvis’ pool room were completely covered with over 350 yards of fabric that took workers 9 days to install.
The “jungle room” inspired by his love for Hawaii. The stone work is similar to our stonework in our home! He copied us!!! haha!
The “jungle room” with the green carpeting on the ceiling as well as floor. This room just screams ’70’s!!!
Standing in what used to be his racquetball court, this now houses many of his gold, platinum, and diamond records. The ipads we have around our neck were just introduced this past week during Elvis Week. We found them pretty slick. You could click on extra icons on the screen to hear sound bites, see photos and scan the room. Each room/area had a page on the ipad. Very cool.
We came during the annual Elvis Week. There were many memorials from fans, even the Norwegians!! haha!!!
Inside his plane, the Lisa Marie, his sink, faucet and belt buckles were gold plated!
While still in Memphis we visited The River Walk at Mud Island which features a scale replica of the lower half of the Mississippi River (starting at St. Louis).
They skipped the upper Mississippi and all we got was this lousy waterfall wall.
Strolling down the Mississippi River.
Standing in the Mississippi River, where we are in real life – Memphis.
With the Gulf of Mexico in the background, Erik is doing some acrobatics.
Mom and dad in front of the “pipe organ” at Mystic Cave in Arkansas. This cave was different than our last cave in that it was more of a “used” cave. There was black smoke on the formations from when a distillery was hidden in the cave to make moonshine. There also used to be a dance floor between formations and they still have Christmas Eve services in the cave with candlelight. This formation was called the crystal bell. White crystals glisten from it, thus the name.
This formation is called the dragon. The head is in the upper left with the spine and tail trailing down towards the lower right.
Done with the cave, we’re off to have lunch. A shiny rainbow colored lizard on a tree greeted us at our next stop, Pedestal Rock.
Note what’s for lunch for Dad and Joe! Twizzlers, cookies and apple danish!
Dad scaring mom! and it worked!!! as it always does!! repeatedly!!!
Erik is climbing this tree to reach the top of the ledge. You’d think Mom would be saying don’t do it, it’s dangerous, but no, she’s taking photos!! In case he falls, it’s documented!
Erik making his way into an unknown cave! We just watch.
Spiders in the caves – Erik’s worst nightmare! He quickly leaves!!! haha!
Mom commented that this sign must mean “watch your children do cool things on the high cliffs”!
Next stop.. Hot Springs National Park which is all located in the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The 47 springs are covered to protect water quality. These provide water for the town, freely available to the public at several water stations. Many locals visit these stations to fill up jugs for home use.
143 degree water emerges from the spring. This is a bit cooler after having been piped over their fountains, but still very hot!
Mom enjoying a relaxing bath.
At the Fordyce bathhouse… Hello Joe!
Comfy? Erik relaxing in stall ‘E’.
Cleaning up after a hard day’s work.
The fountain in the men’s section of the bathhouse.
The stained glass above the fountain previously pictured. The women got no such statue, fountain, or stained glass and had many fewer tubs.
The Fordyce bathhouse even had a nice size gymnasium.
The 3rd floor Assembly Room had a piano, pool table, and lots of stained glass.
Sitting in the lobby of the Fordyce bathhouse.
Enjoyed gelato at the Superior Baths.
A now and then shot next to the hot spring behind the Fordyce bathhouse. The photo on the right was taken in July 1997 when we were down in Arkansas for Paul’s Central States ham radio conference. We were missing David to get the full replica shot!
We brought our Little Caesar’s pizza to Sonic for half price shakes.
Driving into St. Louis the arch is indeed a focal point of their skyline.
On our way to the arch.
We made it to the arch, but unfortunately we were about 30 mins too late to go up the arch. We will have to come back.
Joe in his Jolly Green Giant pose.Erik said the arch is now the 2nd coolest structure he’s ever seen. Devil’s Tower is his top favorite.
At the hotel, the artwork above Erik’s bed was perfect for him.
We will be experiencing a few caves on this vacation. This was cave number one.
This cave continues to be actively growing. These are the “twins.”
Many interesting formations in this cave.
This cave has quite a bit of natural water that seeps into it. Before it was owned by the state, the owner formed up concrete walls to make the pools. It is a good idea it was willed to the state finally, although the cave needs GE to come in and donate some LED lights. You can find algae growing on the rocks by the light sources. LED lights reportedly would minimize the algae growth.
An usual formation. The ground shifted a few times as this formation grew, thus the curved shape.
Watch were you’re walking!
This was by far the most beautiful room, the lily pad room, with it’s pristine water, and lily pad formations.
More evidence of cave ins and ground shifting, but the formations have remained intact.
Now we’re off to the Ozarks through Missouri and Arkansas.
This spring was incredible! Well worth visiting, but I don’t think visited too much.
The color was jaw dropping gorgeous! The color was not photo enhanced. It really was this blue.
You’d think it was colored water.
Nice place to relax and take pictures. Joe is in the distance to Erik’s left taking pictures, and Dad is relaxing in the distance on Erik’s right.
Soon after this photo, Joe, Mr. Butterfingers, spins the polarizing filter off the camera into the water! We can see it sitting on a ledge down in the water.
Erik heads into the water to retrieve it, or so he thinks.
He gave it a college try, but no luck.
Joe heads in. He is sure he can do it.
Next we head off to Big Springs. The water is very swift.
Not too many flowers in bloom right now, but found this pretty cone flower.
Photo by Big Springs, which really is the outpouring of water from a stream that disappears into a cave somewhere and then magically springs out holes in the rock, hence the name “spring.”
The water was nice and blue, but Blue Springs had it beat in color intensity.
We really haven’t seen much wild life on this trip. There was a sign entering this park that said it was a sanctuary for animals, and indeed this is where all the deer in this area hang out!
Passed this lone tree along the way, and though it was very beautiful. It reminded us of this lone tree we once saw in Hawaii.Just a little rain on our way to the hotel, but overall the weather has been great. Hot, and humid, but this is the south in August!
Paul and I visited Niagara Falls 25 years ago. We’re back now with our 3 sons!
Maid of the Mist is a classic!
Two thumbs up!
David isn’t quite sure about this trip when we’re next to Horseshoe Falls, and we really begin to get pelted by the falls.
Paul and I enjoy ourselves. When I get home, I’ll dig out of the photo from 25 years ago, and see how we liked it then.
I’ll always have a warm spot for the Canadian flag since I was born in Canada! I could become a citizen there again, but I’d have to live a year there first. Not sure if my family would like that so well.
David has given into the elements of nature and embraces it, along with Erik. Bring it on!
Next off to the Cave of the Winds tour. We’d never done this before.
David is along, so of course we have goofy photos again 🙂 Don’t try this at home!
We walk up these steps to the various platforms so we can get pelted again by the falls! We pay to do this!!!
Like I said, David is with us, so expect these kind of pictures!
I had to laugh at this sign. I think nature will take care of any smoking!
Joe embraces the weather. The landing is called hurricane deck for a good reason.
I find standing here comical. It makes me laugh.
After eating at Top of the Falls Restaurant, we were treated to a 10 p.m. fireworks display, which happens every Friday and Sunday. We lucked out on our day to visit! We then returned to our hotel and watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics. A memorable day indeed 🙂
Our first stop on our trip through the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Munising Falls, a 50 foot waterfall.
Miner’s Castle. It was overcast day. We took in some views of the lake shore. We had planned to take the ferry you see in this picture for an evening cruise, but unfortunately the weather deteriorated throughout the day, and the captain cancelled the cruise due to 5-7 foot waves on the lake. Hopefully next time we’ll take the cruise in the fall, have great weather, and enjoy fall colors as well as a beautiful sunset lighting up the rocks like we saw in the gift shop!
Joe and Erik taking it easy!
Family photo, although we’re missing David. We’ll see him near the end of this trip!
Pretty stripes in the rocks.
Not exactly tropical waters, but pretty water color changes could be seen none the less.
We drove out to Grand Marais. Not the Minnesota Grand Marais, but they both share the same cold Lake Superior with crashing waves. This fog horn platform was the destination, but no one wanted to stick around too long, as the weather certainly wasn’t ideal!
The cold air was painful to my ears, and just imagine the pain if the fog horn had gone off too! Time to head to the car.
Joe took this artsy photo!
Old shipwreck can be seen.
Sea gulls, as annoying as they can be, are always entertaining.
His feathers were a bit ruffled by the wind.
The Mackinaw Bridge information/rest area. Very nicely planted with pretty annuals and hungry sea gulls.
The Mackinac Bridge was completed in the 1950’s. It is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, and the third longest in the world.
This stop is also home to the most daring, and in your face sea gulls! We had some left over food, and he wanted it!
He actually pecked at the glass.
After no luck with food. He finally flew off.
The 5 mile bridge cost $4.00 to cross. It was a nice drive.
The little town of Bay View, MI was full of these ornate super sized doll houses.
Our next National Park was just begging for this kind of photo!
Lake Michigan Overlook (aka the “real” dune climb – Erik only) but this was not a designated National Park trail. They said not to do it. It was too difficult, but that didn’t stop a lot of people, including Erik. 450 feet elevation change to lake. Took Erik 1 minute and 22 seconds to get down and 13:38 minutes to get back up. Under 15 minute round trip! Way to go Erik!!!!!!
While Erik was climbing up the dune, I took pictures from above.
Here comes Erik!
It was very steep, and often as people would be going down, dust would be kicked up. He’s going to make it though 🙂
He’s almost there!
Whew! He made it!
Lake Michigan fun.
This was the designated National Park dune trail. We walked the trail about 1/2 way until we saw the lake, and then called it good! None of us were willing to undergo the feat that Erik had done earlier, descending the dune to get to the lake, only to have to climb back up!
Lake Michigan in the background, along with the sleeping dunes.
That’s it for Michigan. Next stop, Cleveland, Ohio.
Spring Break trip to Death Valley. Why Death Valley???
Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower United States.
I mapped out on Google maps the different routes we took in the park. The mountains made it a bit challenging driving to every site of interest, which we didn’t. The bubbles are places we did see, and you will see them as you view the pictures. If you hover over the bubble, the name of the site will pop up.View Death Valley in a larger map
On March 11, 2012 we flew into Las Vegas and the next day drove about 3 hours west to Death Valley National Park. Our first stop was to this overlook called Dante’s View, 5,475 feet elevation, looking down onto the salt flats which are 282 feet below sea level. It was an amazing site!
20 Mule Canyon with the sun to our back provided for some creative fun!
We attempted to spell Husby. Erik had the hardest job creating the H. Dad had the easy Y and I lucked out with the U. David made a fine S and Joe was a B.
Proof of our existence!
We tried our skills at making ourselves into scary bugs and other shapes.
Zabriskie Point was the next stop. The colors reminded me of the Badlands in South Dakota, but more textured. This was a panorama view by Joe.
The highest point in the middle of the picture is Zabriski Point.
Golden Canyon hike was full of color as well.
Whatever the kids can climb on, they do!
Looks like twisting ribbon.
Day 2 required a good breakfast to get us started. We managed that at Denny’s!
David would need that energy to build his house at abandoned Rhyolite Mine!
First David brings in some essentials.
Erik and Joe just laugh!
A few things have to go through the window.
He’ll leave some things where they are!
While David gets his house ready, Joe and Erik play frisbee with some rusty metal lids.
David is still busy.
He is ready for an open house!
Wait!!!! What are these openings???? Must explore!!!!
This ghost town we visited, Rhyolite, was not in the park, but it satisfied David and Erik’s need to explore.
I guess they can’t read! David and Erik are already in, and Joe follows.
It looks like a mine to me, as I follow suit, but don’t get as far. The boys are long ahead of me. I turn back, as I need my camera flash to see where to go!
David pops up from the ground! That isn’t where he went in.
They find another mine entrance. It is gated, but they don’t let that deter them.
There is a plus to being thin!
They are safely in???
I send a camera with Erik to show us all the treasure inside!
Thrilling. I guess that’s why they call it an abandoned mine.
Joe sits and waits for them to maybe pop up here, but they end up someplace else.
Safely out of the mines and ready to explore more of the ghost town.
Not sure what a miner with a pic ax has to do with a penguin.
Just as odd is the Lord’s Supper display. They look like ghosts, but this is a ghost town.
And then there is a creepy bicycle ghost.
If you drink enough, you too can make a house out of glass bottles.
Another alternative to digging pocket holes in the mountain, you just carve it away in steps, like in this photo.
We stop at Bonnie Claire mud flats.
Letting the boys out for a run.
Our next stop was this castle in the desert called Scotty’s Castle. It is an interesting story. In short, prospector “Death Valley Scotty” claimed this elaborate Spanish-style mansion was built by gold from his fictitious mine. In reality, it was the 1920’s vacation home of his wealthy friends. Today is is owned by the park and rangers give costumed tours.
A view from the bell tower area.
The boys entertained themselves while waiting for the tour.
Upstairs in the organ/piano room of the castle.
You can always count on David to do the unexpected.
Like this 🙂
Ubehebe Crater, created just 300 years ago was the result of a violent release of underground steam pressure. When the cinder and dust settled, this 600 feet deep crater remained.
Just a bit windy this day up at the rim of the crater.
It is getting late in the day, but Father Crowley Vista Point was beautiful. Nice end to our second day.
Day 3 started with a wonderful view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range right from our hotel, with the highest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney, in clear view.
Headed back into the park, and looking back at Mount Whitney.
Our next adventure was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
We walked the 2 miles out to the tallest sand dune, which is 100 feet high. I had sandals on and boy was that sand hot when it touched my toes!!!
But look at the cute heart shaped marks my sandals made on the sand!
The fun begins at the sand dunes. David rolls down the dune.
I don’t think the ending was quite as enjoyable as he imagined.
He looks dead, but first, let me capture the pose!
Joe takes pictures from above.
David comes back to life, and flies into the air!
Joe takes his turn running down the dune.
Paul and I just pose. No stunts for us.
Erik finds this lizard. Joe zooms in for some cool pictures.
He sure camouflages well with sand.
David pets him.
And then tries him on for size.
Erik poses with the lizard as well, and then lets him get back to whatever he was doing.
Our next stop was Mosaic Canyon, a polished marble-walled canyon.
Not so polished when you get in a ways, and get off the beaten track, which we usually do.
It is amazing what can hang on and live!
Taking a bit of a rest before we head back out, and of course, off trail as usual.
Just when you think there is no water here, we find Salt Creek.
In the creek are rare pupfish.
A school of pupfish! These fish used to live in the huge freshwater lake that filled Death Valley more than 10,000 years ago, but they have since been stranded in water holes throughout the desert. They only live 1 year.
Badwater was our next stop, and the lowest elevation we’ll be at this trip. The water is very salty and when settlers came here, the horses wouldn’t drink the water, and it was declared it was bad water, and the name stuck.
We are now officially at the lowest point in the continental United States.
Salt and more salt!
It is another windy day and Erik and Joe have a hat throwing contest to see whose hat can fly furthest. I think Erik won.
Can’t get enough salt? Go to Devil’s Golf Course!
But don’t fall. The salt is very sharp!
The sun is starting to set, highlighting this beautiful drive along Artist’s Palette Drive, one of David’s favorites!
This was just like a palette of color.
Day 4 and we are off to the races, literally!!! Paul is now driving a jeep as some of the roads will be a bit dicey. Teakettle Junction lives up to its name!
We have now arrived at The Racetrack!!! These rocks mysteriously slide across the dry lakebed, leaving behind long tracks. Odd by true!
I think Joe will get the photo taken before the rock moves!
It looks like the three little rocks have paired up for the race.
Erik is taking a break and holding the rock down so it doesn’t get away!
David thinks he know how the tracks are made.
Maybe the rocks are solar powered and can be driven.
This rock was obviously removed from action 🙁
Rocks are literally racing away from the the mountain from where they came.
Definitely looks like a racetrack.
Erik muses at the course some of the rocks make.
Looks like these rocks are on a collision course.
The boys are over by the rocks, adding more players to the field!
This rock is being lame, copying the same path.
Big rock started sooner, but little rock is catching up.
They sure have made some tracks.
Something important flew over. I even heard a sonic boom out in the valley.
Joe lends his weight to give him a push.
Now that’s called changing your mind!!!! like 90 degees!!!
Was it a collision or did they take off in opposite directions?
Now that you’ve seen the racetrack, off in a distance is The Grandstand, the rock formation on the racetrack.
A close up of the Grandstand.
They are off to get the best view of the races!!! David is first to the top.
It won’t be long until they’re all at the top. Dad found a comfortable place too.
After watching the race, we visited a favorite of David and Erik, a MINE, Lost Burro Mine.
Here’s hoping our Jeep doesn’t end up looking like this one!
Inside one of the building was some questionable seating and decorating!
Chunk-O Crayon looks kind of fun!
This structure doesn’t look too safe either. Again, maybe that’s why they call it an abandoned mine!
Out house is still standing!
No one can read!!!
I really don’t know what the fascination is with mines. They all look about the same inside.
I guess I wouldn’t call this the highlight of my trip!
Erik shows me the mine shaft that looks a bit too unsafe to go down, he says!!
But then he shows me the shaft he did descend into. He estimates he climbed about about 70 feet down these stellar ladders! He did say it was a bit scary. I guess that’s the thrill of it. We didn’t have any rope to help get him out, had he fallen. I guess his guardian angels were present as usual, and tired, as always!
While the boys were exploring, Paul was out photographing the beauty.
The Racetrack in the background.
Day 5 and last day with the Jeep 🙁 driving through Titus Canyon. We took the top off our Jeep to take in the whole feel of the Jeep adventure.
Again, beautiful rock colors.
Awesome rock formations.
Rock walls on our way out.
Our real destination for the day was the Eureka Dunes. You’ll have to Google this link to hear the dunes “sing.” They are 700 foot tall dunes. And we ALL made it to the top of them!!! Erik was first, followed by David, Paul, Joe and MOM!!!!
This was the view just partially up the dunes looking down at the valley.
Joe at the top of the dunes!
We’re on our way back down.
This is where it gets interesting. As you push the sand around you, you hear a low pitched growling noise.
You must listen to the Youtube video, which isn’t our family, but could be! My camera, which has video, was damaged by the blowing dune sand that day, and quit functionoing:( so no video of us.
Day 6 and we’re enjoying a relaxing morning at Furnace Creek Ranch.
Shuffle board is always in style!
Dad systematically beat each boy one by one!
The solar panels at the Ranch.
Looks like the end of the trip!
I did manage to find a beautiful bouganivillea to photography!
After 6 days in this park, we still didn’t see everything, although it was time to become a Junior Ranger AGAIN!!!
Death Valley is an amazing park!
The beautiful scenery along Jubilee Pass on our way back to Vegas.
We weave our way out of the mountains.
We stop to enjoy the view!
Got to love those hairpin turns!
We’re back in Las Vegas. We saw the Phantom of the Opera, and David tried his luck at the penny machine. He won 15 cents and lost $3.85!
Beautiful glass flowers on the ceiling of the Bellagio.
The Bellagio flower displays are always awesome!
These were the post card that I never got sent, so I asked each boy to summarize the trip. Joe writes…..
David writes….. By the way, the chicken spread was awful, looked like cat food, and got tossed 🙁
And Erik writes…. and yes, Joe did find $120 in the parking ramp in Las Vegas. Dad strategically parked on the 7th floor. I told Dad what space to park in, and Joe got out of the car first and finds one 20 dollar bill, and then 5 more 20’s folded together. What a lucky find! Of course he didn’t spend a dime of it at the casinos!
In summary, Death Valley is this and MUCH MORE!!!!
We have now moved on to Raleigh, North Carolina. We visited a fantastic free museum, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. As usual, the gift shop was one of our favorite stops. The boys found hand puppets and goofed around, and luckily we weren’t asked to leave 🙂
Erik is about to be attacked by a shark!
Paul finds a finger puppet clam whose eyes can individually move. He’s really cute!
We have been bugging Joe about never giving us a funny pose. This was one of his first ever attempts! What do you think?
We’ve now made it to the Outer Banks. We took the two hour ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. Then a short 30 min ferry to Hatteras. In Hatteras, The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum was a very interesting and free museum. Erik gives you his best pirate face:
Joe, with much encouragement, gives you his best pose.
Lighthouses are fun to see. The Hatteras lighthouse is the tallest brick structure in the United States at 208 feet. We didn’t climb the 268 steps to the top because the balcony was closed due to high winds. We didn’t want to get to the top only to look out a little window in the door 🙁
An official, “we were there,” picture!
In 1999, the lighthouse was moved 2900 feet. Joe is standing at the old site. The land is eroding and it was in danger of being swept into the sea. It is now the same distance from the sea that it originally was when it was built in 1870.
The Bodie lighthouse. This picture makes it look like the house has a really big chimney!
Sunset at Nags Head on Bodie Island.
Joe, Erik, and Mom go to play in the waves. It was cold at first, but we had fun, and we surfed the waves for quite a while.
Joe and Erik play keep away with the waves!
The Outer Banks shoreline. Mom’s try at an artsy photo!
Our last stop of the day was to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. The original plane is in the Smithsonian, but this is a replica.
We walk the course of the flights.
Paul rests his shoulder on Wilbur, as he lets go of the plane on take off.
Erik touches finger tips with the on lookers.
Mom takes her picture along with the photographer who did remember to squeeze the bulb to capture the first ever successful motorized flight picture!
And of course, Joe catches a ride on the first flight!
Tomorrow we take a Rover Tall Ship Cruise of the Norfolk Naval base area, and then head home.
Another fun vacation!!! We wish David could have joined us for the entire trip, but next trip, which will be to Death Valley in March!