We stopped at some cool rest areas along the way.
One had a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln outside.
One had a stuffed bear inside.
And one had a little play structure outside.
Too bad it happened to be in a farming community
with a very strong manure odor.
Whit couldn't even let go of her nose for a picture.
Whit chose this really cool fun stop in Ashland, Nebraska.
It was a drive-thru safari.
We saw a big herd of elk.
This poor guy lost an antler.
A pond full of pelicans.
A couple of bald eagles.
Some black bears.
(It looks like we caught this one in the middle of praying.)
There was a little petting zoo...
with the cutest baby goats!
And a couple of chickens.
And at the end we got to see a big herd of bison.
They have such interesting facial features.
We thought these two white ones might be able to fly,
but the kids yelled "yip, yip" and nothing happened.
(I guess they need six legs, these only had four.)
We visited Nauvoo, Illinois again this year.
We made it to our hotel in time to take a quick swim before bed.
In the morning, we were off to see the sights.
We spent some time in Carthage.
And toured the jail where Joseph Smith
and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred.
It was a reverent, spiritual experience.
Then we were off to Nauvoo for the louder, kid-friendly stuff.
First, we saw Just Plain Anna Amanda.
It's a cheezy but cute musical for kids.
I would love to see the job posting for this position:
Must be able to sing well and climb columns in your bare feet.
We were happy to meet some of the actor missionaries when it was over.
Then we got to take an oxen ride.
While waiting our turn, we ran into our friends Linda and Rhonda from home.
What a pleasant surprise!
We enjoyed our short ride.
And felt sorry for the oxen in that heat and humidity.
We got to try our Annie's frozen custard for the first time.
Even though we have been to Nauvoo before, we had
never ventured over to the Joseph Smith Historical site.
It is owned by the Community of Christ church.
I'm not sure why that made me hesitant, but it did.
This time, I overcame my fears and we were able to see
the graves of Joseph, Hyrum and Emma.
As well as visit the Red Brick Store...
Where we found a note that Uncle Tony had left for the kids!
(He happened to be there THE DAY BEFORE on a group tour for work.)
We spent plenty of time at the Pioneer Pastimes pavillion.
My kids LOVE that place.
They walked on stilts,
dressed up in bonnets,
and played with old timey pioneer games.
B and I had a great time throwing a hoop with sticks.
When we were ready to escape the heat,
we stopped at the Family Living Center.
The kids and I listened to presentations on
baking bread, making thread, rag rugs, and dipping candles.
Caroline built a giant block tower.
We walked the Trail of Hope.
I thought it was awesome and inspiring to picture
all those pioneers being forced from their homes
into an unknown land.
The kids were hot.
But the girls hung in there with me until we made it to the Mississippi.
(Brandon was off riding his scooter.)
Stopped for a pic in front of the gorgeous Nauvoo temple.
After we grabbed some dinner, it was time for the Country Fair--
another favorite for the kids.
The girls made rag dolls.
B pulled them in a handcart.
Then Whit got a turn.
And B helped Caroline pull, too.
I guess they're ready for trek now. :)
The girls learned to dance the Highland Fling.
And hopped in a bag race.
And B and W had to work together to cut through
a log with this big ol' saw.
Then it was time for the pageant to start.
I love it!
Quick picture with cast members.
And we made one last stop at Annie's
for a quick treat before heading back to the hotel.
What an exhausting and fun day!
Our next fun stop was in Normal, IL.
They have a great (though very crowded) children's museum.
Proud of their agriculture.
This was a cool idea I hadn't seen before.
A plexiglass painting wall.
You can paint your masterpiece,
then spray it with a water bottle and squeegee it away.
And make another one.
B and W liked it a lot.
C was busy working at the box office.
B and this cute girl were both decent pianists,
so played a couple of fun duets on the big keyboard.
Great fun stop.
Then it was on to Louisville to visit with
Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Alex.
Alex came with us to the Kentucky Science Center.
We got to watch an awesome explosions show.
They had put different elements into balloons and
then would light them on fire and we could see
the different reactions.
All of us enjoyed it.
(Yes, I'm trying to raise science nerds.)
Walking around downtown Louisville,
we saw this crazy limo.
It's completely covered in glass beads.
Alex showed us this cool falling text art exhibit.
We had fun trying to catch words with our bodies.
And B liked seeing how big he could make his face.
Stopped at the Louisville Slugger factory.
I love behind-the-scenes-tours.
So cool to see how things work!
(Yes, I know I'm a nerd.)
C tried on the big daddy glove.
Nothing would get past her!
W got to hold David Ortiz' game-used bat.
And B got to hold Mickey Mantle's!!
How cool is that?
It was our lucky day because they had a Lego exhibit, too.
They had some neat sculptures,
and a spot for the kids to build.
The next morning, we were ready for our last leg of the journey.
We made a quick stop at the Clay Center in Charleston, WV.
C remembered playing in the ball pit last year
and couldn't wait to jump in again!
It's a perfect quick stop.
And we made it!
There's no place like home.
We were so happy to see Andrew.
The girls quickly got into their make-up and dress-ups.
Brandon was happy to be out of the van so he could
resume standing on his head at every opportunity.
We LOVED this trip and are so glad that we have this chance to visit with our loved ones who live so far away and to see so much of this beautiful country.