Thursday, July 14, 2016

Girl Cousin Road Trip

As you know, I'm a National Parks nerd. Wait, do you know that? Well, I am. And I'm training Bridget to be a nerd by taking her to as many parks/monuments/reserves/memorials as I can and having her get a junior ranger badge and a stamp in her National Parks Passport. We're seeking after the things that are lovely! Praiseworthy! Of good report! (Articles of Faith.) And I always find it at the parks. 

Speaking of lovely, Bridget has two cousins her age, Chloe and Anya. They have been together less than five times (all three of them at the same time). That is unacceptable. 
Chloe, Anya, and Bridget in January 2007.

I decided that the three girls and their moms (Katy, Melissa, and me) should take our sweet 4th graders/10 year-old girls on a National Park Road Trip. I narrowed it down to three places; Arizona (mostly for the Grand Canyon), Ohio (the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park all about the Wright Brothers), and the North Carolina seashore - which included several places we could visit. We chose North Carolina! Last Wednesday night, Bridget and I got on the red-eye from Salt Lake to Charlotte, then Charlotte to Raleigh.
Bridget is a dream to travel with. She's adorable and easy (there she is waiting for our plane and reading Shannon Hale's Princess in Black), until she falls asleep on an airplane and starts jerking, and slapping me around. It was a very long night, but we made it to Raleigh where Katy and Anya picked us up. Bridget slept a little during the night and I slept not at all. Too busy smelling B.O. and trying to read. One of the first things we did was get schooled by Katy's girls on the coolest thing happening right now - monograms! Who knew? Also, Simply Southern shirts. Anya wanted to get twinsie shirts for the three of them and we were lucky enough to find three purple shirts that were just right.
Back at Katy's house, Bridget and Anya played with their American Girl dolls while I closed my eyes. When Melissa and her family came over later in the afternoon, we sang Happy Birthday to Harrison (he was turning 13 the very next day) and ate cake. All the girls in the house disappeared into Anya and Helena and Bryce's room to laugh. We wrangled them to the porch before Jeff, Harrison, and Miles had to go. Always need a porch shot.
It was so hot! I never stopped sweating for one second the whole time. Look at these cute kids! I love seeing the cousins together.

Katy, Melissa and I went out to dinner just the three of us that first night. How weird to not have to panic about where the boys were and what they were doing and if they were into mischief. I didn't have to, but I caught myself doing it anyway several times.

Our goal on Friday morning was to get out the door by 7:00am and we almost made it. Miraculous! It was a three hour drive to our first stop, Fort Raleigh.

We'd been in the visitor center for a minute and a half when we heard someone at the door scream. There was a snake right there by the front door! Before I saw it I thought, "Whatever. I kicked a snake on the Jordan River Parkway last week." What I kicked was not a real snake, THIS was a real snake.
You guys!!!!! Look at that thing! This funny lady was the bravest - she calmly took care of the Black Razor Snake like she does it every day. Which, I guess she does - they've named him George and he's not poisonous. She gave us the lowdown on what snakes are poisonous and what to do if we got bit. What a show! Totally free.
My absolute favorite thing about Fort Raleigh was learning about the story of the Lost Colony. Their governor, John White, and a small party left the colony to get more supplies in England, but got delayed in their return because England was at war with Spain. When White got back, the whole colony was gone and the only clue was the word "Croatan" carved into a tree. WHAT HAPPENED? Chloe thinks they all died of disease (grim). I think they assimilated into the Native American tribe that lived the closest. Melissa thinks aliens. :) We helped each other find the answers to all the questions on the girls' junior ranger booklets. This junior ranger stuff is Chloe's bag. She was so good at it! My other favorite story was John White's granddaughter, Virginia Dare, being the first white, European person born in America. There are so many interesting stories at this historic site! Two thumbs up.
Taking the junior ranger oath in their Simply Southern shirts and fancy hair. So cute.
We walked out to see the replica of Fort Raleigh. "I thought it'd be bigger," Katy said. Then someone made the inevitable joke. I won't say who.

It is impossible to imagine what life was like in this spot in the late 16th century. They had to wear so many layers of clothes - I'm sure they were sweating like crazy! They have a play about the Lost Colony in an amazing theater right there at Fort Raleigh. Unfortunately they only have performances at 7:30pm and we had stuff to do. We did check out back stage and see the Atlantic Ocean, which I'm sure helps the actors in their motivation.
We took so many pictures of these sweethearts! 

At this point all of us were starving. And sweating. We went to a fun 1950's-style diner that had air conditioning and ate fried stuff. (At this point I didn't realize that everything we ate would be breaded and fried. What the heck, The South?) Outside the restaurant was a cute and huge chair. Photo op!

On my itinerary (which I typed and sent to everyone a few months ago - nerd) I'd written that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was 15 minutes away from Fort Raleigh. It is not. The Cape Hatteras Seashore starts 15 miles from Fort Raleigh. Big difference. I wondered if it would be worth it to drive all the way there (it would take just over an hour) and possibly not get to climb the lighthouse like we planned. Katy was determined, though, and there is no stopping her! We were getting to that lighthouse and climbing it! On our way, we passed by Bodie (pronounced "body," which is super disappointing somehow) Island Lighthouse. We did make it to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with time to spare and we did get to climb the steps all the way to the top.
Cape Hatteras is the tallest and most famous lighthouse on the North Carolina coast, so there are lots of little statues of it on lawns all over the state. It was pretty emotional to be right there in front of it. It's kind of a work of art, bigger than life. As we walked up the 257 steps, I thought about how weird it is that this structure wasn't built for anyone to live in it. No rooms, no place to put a chair. Just a winding staircase to the top.
Bridget sitting in the top window. She is not afraid of heights. Some others were. :)
Pretty windy up there, but exhilarating. Besides getting to climb a lighthouse, I loved hearing about the "Ghost Fleet" of the Outer Banks. The whole reason Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built was because so many ships kept crashing on this shore. Including one of Black Beard's ships. I bought the boys a pirate compass, a pirate map, and a pirate whistle. Argh! By the time we climbed the stairs back down, it was almost 5:00, which is when the ranger station was closing.
We went to the museum anyway and I asked for a junior ranger booklet for the girls (those workbooks always have a lot of cool information in them). Katy was bolder than me and asked the ranger if he'd give us three badges if we promised to make the girls do the work. He said we had to swear them in as well. :) Done! I still can't believe he let us do it! He didn't want to. Ha!
There we were! Sweating and so happy.
I loved hanging out with Melissa and Katy. They were so much fun! Sisters are the best.

Back in the van to get to Kitty Hawk where we had a couple of hotel rooms and some Boneys to meet.
This is what the backseat looked like. Katy thought that Anya was tall for her age until she met Chloe. Look at that cute, freckle-y forehead!
There she is!
We ran into some crazy traffic the close we got to Kitty Hawk, but there were so many fun views that it was okay. We met Allyn, Aron, and six of their seven kids at High Cotton (a bbq place) across from our hotel.
Allyn and Aron have five boys, y'all. Five. I noticed each of our shy 10 year-olds took a deep breath when we told them we were meeting all these boys in Kitty Hawk. :) Good thing Lilja was there, too! We ate more breaded and fried stuff. Still don't get hushpuppies. Is it a ball of cornbread dough dropped into a deep fryer? Shouldn't there be dip or sauce? We picked up some Duck Donuts while we waited for our table for 13. 

The plan was to walk along the ocean and play after dinner, but there was a lightning storm that we could see, so we stayed at the hotel pool where we could get back quicker. And eat our donuts without sand. The kids had the most fun ever playing in the pool. Denham (the baby in Banks's arms) rode on Aron's back like Aron was a dolphin. True to my experience, no matter how much time we spent in the pool, it wasn't going to be enough. We had the girls (including Lilja) in one room and the Lee sisters in another while Aron and all the boys were in another wing of the hotel in one suite. Bridget and Katy traded places in the middle of the night. Bridget still gets nervous. :)

On Saturday morning, Melissa and I went for a walk on the beach before everyone else was up. I'd packed workout clothes and I was determined to use them this time! We got ready, checked out, and headed to the Wright Brothers Memorial (after a bagel breakfast).
This photo is for Grandma Peggy. The dolls were always dressed and ready for anything in the van.
It was a pretty crowded place compared to what we'd seen already. I loved David McCullough's book so much and I was so excited to see this place. I had to wait in line at the bookstore (I got a print and a spoon for my Grandma Furniss's collection) too long. The volunteer ranger who did the Ranger Talk in this theater room was a bit much. We got the junior ranger booklets from him and I asked what the ranger talk was going to be about. "Wine making." So, yeah, he was sarcastic and yell-y. Thank goodness we didn't get seats on the front row - he yelled right in those poor people's faces. The story of the Wright Brothers gets to me, even with a sarcastic ranger telling it.
Bridget finishing up her booklet behind my favorite picture of all time. It makes me cry every single time I see it. They did it!
Is that guy in the background wiping his nose on his sleeve?
Aunt Allyn and Bridget standing in the replica (right? was it the real one?) of the airplane hangar.
Katy, Allyn, Me, and Melissa standing in the very spot where the first airplane flew. I'm wearing Emil's ascot as a headband. He asks me every time I wear it, "Is that my mascot?" And I say, "No. It's a headband." Ha!
Chloe and Melissa - delightful redheads.
Heading to the monument. So much open space! Bridget predicted I would be sorry I'd worn flip-flops, but Allyn told me running shoes and shorts look dumb. They're both right!
This butterfly was flying around us - isn't it beautiful?
Bridget and Chloe dreaming big.
We told them to jump and they mostly do what we say.
Katy got the best one of these. I should have stolen it. 

We said goodbye to Allyn here :( and went on to find food and sneak in a quick visit to the ocean for Bridget. We'd seen it the whole time, but she wanted to put her toes in it and get a few shells.
Hahahahahaha!
It was just me and the girls while Katy and Melissa put gas in the van. Then it was three hours to Cary to drop off Melissa and Chloe. They were on their way south to Topsail for another week at the beach with Jeff's side of the family. Before we said goodbye, I checked Chloe and Bridget's notebooks and had them repeat the Cape Hatteras Seashore Junior Ranger Pledge. They did it! Three badges earned. :)

Sunday morning Bridget slept in until 10:30am. Whoa! We finally wore her out! Bryce waiting somewhat patiently for her to come down and draw with him.
Then it was church time.
Helena, Anya, Bridget, Evie, and Bryce. Bridget found shoes in the "bin" so she didn't have to wear her flip-flops to church. 

We had to high-tail it to the airport right after church. I'm getting teary now. I'm so glad we did this! It was a feat of strength, for sure, trying to work with all our schedules and plan money-wise to do this trip. It's already one of my favorite memories and I think Bridget's too.