Several years ago, we went on a trip with our youngest daughter’s family to South Dakota to visit Mt. Rushmore. We did not realize all the things that are available to see in South Dakota. One of the magnificent sites we visited was the Badlands. At the entrance to the National Park, we saw Prairie Dogs peeking out from their holes and checking us out. When we actually entered the park, the views were amazing. There were layered rocks, canyons, grasslands and spires. As we continued our drive, we saw bighorn sheep right along the side of the road. Apparently, in some locations there are also bison although we did not see any of them in the park, but did in the Black Hills.
There is so much history contained in this area that it is truly impossible to talk about all of it. Therefore, I will give a very brief synopsis and then show pictures that were taken at this famous site.
Ft. Morgan was constructed in the early 1800s on Mobile Point. The fort was seized from the Federal government by Alabama during the Civil War and used to allow confederate supplies to come in. Later Admiral David Farragut captured the fort for the north. The fort continued to be used off and on all the way through World War II. In 1947, it was turned over to Alabama to be used as a historical park. The park also includes a museum with many interesting artifacts from throughout the history of the fort. The fort is located in a wildlife refuge. It also has a beautiful beach and fishing is allowed.
My son and his family have been on beach trips for the last several years. This year they decided on Orange Beach, Alabama. We went with them, but stayed in Foley. It is a nice town, that is north of Gulf Shores. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are practically the whole southern coast of Alabama from Mobile eastward.
We woke up at 4am and got an early start last Sunday morning. We met up at the Buc-ee’s in Terrel, Tx. If you have never visited one of these gas station/stores, you might want to stop just to see it. You could almost make a day trip visiting one of these. They transferred two of the grandchildren to our car because theirs was so full, and they kept saying it would be a much more enjoyable trip for them if they weren’t all in the same car. And we were off. It really wasn’t a bad drive, but with all the stops it took us about 12 hours. By the time we got there, ate and got checked in the Foley Holiday Inn Express, we crashed. This is the cleanest motel I have ever stayed in, and all the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.
The next morning, I wanted to be sure to get sunrise pictures so we drove down US 59 straight to the beach. Unfortunately, there was a building blocking the sunrise itself, but I ended up getting some beautiful pictures of the sky and amazing blue heron pictures and videos. I had never really watched a blue heron eat before. It is quite interesting. First, he walked around until he was ready to eat. He’d crouch down and bend his head to the side and strike. Sometimes he’d come up empty, and others he’d catch something. Then he had to maneuver the fish into position so that he could swallow it whole. Meanwhile, he might drop it a time or two before swallowing, and he would have to make sure it didn’t get washed away by a wave or stolen by a sea gull. The sea gulls would crowd around him to get a chance to steal the fish.
After the heron moved on and the sun rose higher in the sky, we went back to the motel and ate. Then we met up with our family and spent the morning on the beach fishing and playing in the water. My granddaughters and I took a long walk on the beach. Just listening to the waves was so relaxing. About 11am, when most other people were coming out, we’d go back to the room, eat and rest.
On this day, Monday, we ate lunch at the Fish River Grill in Gulf Shores off of Ft. Morgan Road and US 59. The food was excellent. We split the fried shrimp. It came with swamp soup (beans and mustard greens), fries, coleslaw and fried okra. Then we also split something I had never heard of before: shrimp pistols with crawfish sauce. This was absolutely amazing. It tasted so good that I ended up ordering another one just for myself. If you ever go, you have to try the Shrimp Pistol. The prices were extremely reasonable for all the food they gave us.
Then about 4pm we went to Perdido Pass to check out the fishing for the next evening. On our way back to the room, we stopped off in the state park, and I got more heron pics and a few squirrel pics. The squirrels here have white bellies and a stripe down their backs, nothing at all like the ones at home. We were getting back into the car and I noticed several people looking over the side of a bridge. I had to go and check it out before we left. There in the water was an alligator. Earlier, I had seen signs saying don’t feed or aggravate the alligators, but I never thought I’d see one this close. He swam right under the bridge and came out the other side and just sat there.
Between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores there is a very long fishing pier. My husband and I left early enough to get to the pier and walk around before sunset. Not many people were catching any fish, but lots were trying. One person did catch a stingray. We stayed long enough to get sunset pictures and then headed back to our room so that we could come back to the pier in the morning and get sunrise pictures. Who gets any sleep on vacations? Surely not us! There’s always too much do see and do!
On July 20 of this year we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of man on the moon. If you were alive at that time, I don’t think you will ever forget it or Neil Armstrong’s words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Although most space launches occur in Florida, the main control center for flights is in Houston at the Johnson Space Center. Touring this facility can only be called inspiring. There are so many amazing things to see. As you drive up to the main building, the first thing you see is one of the space shuttles atop a 747 that is used to transport the shuttles back to Florida. Once inside the main building, you can actually go into both of these vehicles and see the massive size of the interior for yourself. Then you can walk around the main building where you see all types of exhibits and mockups of different space vehicles, and movies. There are also hands on experiments for both adults and children, as well as an area for kids to actually attempt to do some of the things that astronauts have to learn to do. One of these exhibits is a moving vehicle kids sit in and try to dock a incoming space vehicle to a stationary vehicle in “space.” There are also rides that can be taken (extra cost). One of these involves using goggles that make things appear multidimensional. In addition, there is a lunar rock area where you can actually touch a rock from the surface of the moon, and see many others.
Another very interesting adventure involves taking tram tours. Most of the time there are two tram rides. The blue line or the red line. Both took us to Rocket Park. This is by far our favorite part of the tours. There are a few rockets outside the building, but when you enter the building, you are totally blown away by the massiveness of the Saturn V rocket inside. It is laying on its side and is 363 ft long. This rocket has three stages and a command module. Finally on the very top is the lunar module.
From here the tram tour drives you around the actual working areas of Nasa and shows you the buildings from the outside. Then you are allowed to go into the Christopher Kraft Building and see the actual mission control room for the Orion missions. We were told that this will be closed very soon, and we were one of the last groups to be able to see it. In this building there is also a room that you can tour with a special ticket of the old mission control room of the early space programs. On a trip quite a while ago, we were able to see this room. The thought that we were able to put a man into space using computers that didn’t even have the capability of a present day cell phone is truly amazing!
The second tram tour takes you to the astronaut training center as well as riding around the outside of buildings. It has lots of different space vehicles and robots that are used for training.
I would say that the space center has something for just about all ages. Older adults will enjoy the historical parts and seeing the actual machinery involved. Younger children will enjoy all of the hands-on experiences and rockets.
We got an early start and crossed into Ohio before 7 am. The terrain is starting to get a little flatter. I never realized that Ohio was as big as it is, especially when you drive diagonally across it. We stopped in Louisville, Kentucky to pick up a cocker spaniel. We now had a packed car and were finally headed home. After crossing back into the Central Time Zone, we continued our trip into Tennessee, Arkansas, and then into Texas.
In the last ten days, we had driven through twenty-one states and delivered eight puppies to their new homes Even though we had not been able to make many stops to “tour” the different areas, the trip gave us a terrific overview to pick where we would like to return for a longer visit.
Since Yarmouth is on Cape Cod, we wanted to see what the beach was like up north. So we spent about 20 minutes walking on the beach. It is cold!! We are still in shorts and short sleeve shirts. We definitely were not prepared to come up north, even in the late spring. Now we are headed to New Bedford to pick up one of three dogs on our trip home. Some of the things we noticed on this trip is that Northerners use their car horns way more than we do in Texas. Also, they spend lots of time either just sitting in traffic or speeding past cars when they can. Something else that we don’t have that is common up here are the Roundabouts, and our mile markers are in whole numbers; whereas up here, they can be in tenths or two tenths. Seems like you could save lots of money on signs by them just being by the mile.
New Bedford seems to be an older city that has lots to do with whaling. There is even a cobblestone road. We pick up the dog, who we nickname Precious. She is a sweet American Bulldog who is absolutely terrified. We pass through Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York again. This time we are further north in New York so the traffic is not quite as bad. We are now driving in the Hudson River Valley and drive through the Taconic Mountains. We see the exit to Poughkeepsie. It brings back memories of my Dad because he used to travel there for his job. Now we are in Clearfield, Pennsylvania and picking up a beautiful Akita puppy. Just past Clearfield we passed the highest point on this road on this side of the Mississippi River – 2250 Ft. We kept driving through the Allegany National Forest and stopped for the night in Clarion, Pa.
We finally made it to Massachusetts, and for the time being, we had no animals with us. My husband’s family came to this country in the 16-1700s from England. The first ancestor that we can trace back lived around Weymouth, Massachusetts. So we at least wanted to drive there and see what it looked like. Basically, now it is just a suburb of Boston. So since we were that close, we decided to spend the day wandering around Boston. We parked in a garage that had spaces so close that I thought we would never get in or out of there. The attendant actually offered to park, but my daughter decided to do so herself with him giving her directions.
Then we wandered up to the main street. We were at a wharf that was directly on Boston Harbor. Wow! Who knew that I would ever see the place where the Boston Tea Party took place. It was a wonderful opportunity to explain history to my granddaughter who is homeschooled.
There was some type of event going on where lots of venders were selling various products. There were many beautiful items, but honestly as crowded as the SUV was, they would never have made it home. We looked at the buildings, parks and the harbor with all the boats. We stopped at State Street Provisions for lunch. The thing that I had looked forward to the whole trip was getting to eat clam chowder and lobster. This restaurant was absolutely amazing! My granddaughter got the chowder and my daughter and I split an order of chowder and a lobster roll. With the lobster roll, you had a choice of salad, fries or half and half. I got the half and half because I knew my granddaughter would eat the fries after her chowder. That lobster roll had a lemon zest on it and was chunks of lobster on a toasted roll. It was absolutely the best food that I had on the entire trip. If you are ever in Boston, I would definitely recommend this restaurant!
After eating, we walked around looking at two beautiful churches: St. Leonard’s and St. Stephen’s. They were both very old, built in the 1700s. St. Leonard’s was much more ornate and reminded me of the painted churches here in Texas.
After attending Mass at St. Stephen’s, we left Boston and drove to Yarmouth. It had been a very relaxing and interesting day!