Road Trippin’: Itinerary & Photo Journal

Bags are unpacked, laundry is caught up, our young Marine has arrived in Cali, Madeline is back in school, and we are rested after a whirlwind seven day road trip through eight states last week!

Bradley graduated his MOS training and is now a Marine MP. We drove out to Ft Leonard Wood to enjoy time with him before he headed off to his PDS.

The boy did not have as many days off as we did, so we arranged a little mini-vacation around Madeline’s spring break and our travels. I love planning road trips, and this one was no different!

I have never let others plan for us; the goal is always to try to pick activities that fit our interests, see as much as we can to get a feel for so many fabulous things our beautiful nation offers, and we leave plenty of time to be spontaneous.

To begin planning I always put our destination into the GPS and look at all our routes; this time we were shown two distinct ways to travel to Ft Leonard Wood. Our entire little family has a goal of visiting all fifty states (hubby has visited 49 of them; I’m at 29 & it’s become quite a contest between our 4 kiddos), and airports don’t count. With two routes showing Madeline pointed out she could add two new states to her list so we decided to loop this trip.

We would leave Atlanta and head west through Alabama, Mississippi, skirt Tennessee with a pass through Memphis into Arkansas and head up into Missouri as we drove out to see Bradley. Coming home we would go through St Louis into Illinois, Kentucky, back through Nashville, Tennessee and back into Georgia.

With our route chosen we had an idea of places we wanted to see along the way and we set out to see what we could see! I thought our itinerary was a lot of fun, and had a couple of requests from social media to share it, so here we go!  Of course some of this was tailored to visiting Bradley, but you should find plenty of ideas for planning your own trip!

Day one we left about four in the afternoon after Audley had gotten off work. We love driving backroads, especially during rush hour, so we when we left on Thursday afternoon we took 2- lane roads from Cartersville, Georgia into Gadsden, Alabama before hitting I-59 into Birmingham. With spring really starting to show up it was a beautiful drive past farms and flowing rivers and creeks as we’ve been blessed with a lot of rain this year.

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Our first stop was for supper just outside Birmingham. We chose a quirky little sushi restaurant called Rock-N-Roll Sushi. We absolutely loved the classic rock theme of both the decor & sushi rolls!

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Madonna & Tommy Lee Rolls

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Journey & Motely Crue Roll

With our bellies full we drove through downtown Birmingham and headed west on I-22 into Mississippi.  Once in Tupelo we stopped for the night at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Day two began nice and early (7:15 am) as we wanted to make a stop by Elvis Presley’s birthplace (we were in Tupelo after all), which has been made into a public park as well as museum. We stopped by before they opened for a morning stroll through the park. While we didn’t get to see the inside of the home, no crowds and the peacefulness of the early morning was worth the stop. It’s a park that’s been tastefully created and quite lovely.

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We left Tupelo and passed through Memphis where we stopped at Elvis’s Graceland, a last minute decision since we had visited the birthplace early that morning.

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Graceland has changed a whole lot since I visited 24 years ago which meant we only viewed the house from a distance. We didn’t want extra museums and planes, we only wanted to walk the grounds; see the memorials and the gravesite. We were not paying $70/each to do so!

We paid $10 to park; Madeline bought a T-shirt, we walked to the wall by the gates (that looks so trashy since they allow people to draw graffiti all over it), took a few photos and was back on the road in 45 mins. I’m not a tourist trap/circus fan when it comes to historic or cultural locations.

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We crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas where we hit backroads through the Ozark Mountains into Missouri to Mansfield.

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Y’all, it’s a stunningly beautiful drive, and you never know what unique towns you might pass through.

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Mansfield was the final home of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was so excited for this planned stop! It’s not a huge tourist trap like Graceland was (thank goodness), but a tastefully done memorial to recall a fascinating life! Admission was $12/each for both the Rock House their daughter designed and had built for them and the Rocky Ridge House, Almanzo constructed. We spent a couple of hours here, and made it our last stop of the day.

Everyone was so knowledgeable, friendly and just lovely to be around!

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despite the rain, this was such a memorable destination!

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I’ll share more of this beautiful and historic location in another post!

At the recommendation of one of the girls at the Wilder Museum, we hit the backroads (make sure your gas tank is topped off) out of Mansfield and stopped in a little Amish community for an all-you-can-eat Friday night fried fish and chicken supper.

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Y’all.

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Amish peanut butter …. you MUST try it!

It was amazing.

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And we didn’t eat again until around 1:00pm on day three.

We rolled into St Robert, Missouri around 8:00 and checked into the Hampton Inn on historic Route 66.

Day three allowed us to enjoy a little extra sleep as our Marine and adopted Marine were sleeping in themselves. We picked the boys up from the base and headed west again towards Branson; an hour and a half drive. Lunch at Steak and Shake, shopping at the Tanger outlets was the perfect way to spend an afternoon with teenagers. Branson has so many shows and activities to choose from, We wanted something where we could have fun interacting and savoring time together, so the Branson Murder Mystery dinner theater was definitely the best choice!

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Our kids volunteered for the roles of the James brothers and Kay Marte (the local town gossip). With dinner and an interactive show we had a crazy fun evening filled with a lot of laughs!

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Day four we worshiped with a little congregation just off of base in Waynesville. Everyone there was so welcoming, sweet and friendly. We won’t forget our visit anytime soon.

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After lunch, Bradley let us know he had to return to base earlier since it was Sunday, so he suggested we make a stop at Uranus Fudge Factory, a quirky little tourist stop on Historic Route 66.

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And if the truth be known I probably was not mature enough for this general store and fudge factory, especially when the guy behind the counter at Uranus asked how I wanted my “fudge packed”.

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Y’all all I have to say is you have to have a warped sense of humor to make this stop which is why Bradley wanted to stop I’m sure.

After we dropped Bradley back off at the base we had plenty of daylight left so we ventured out to drive a little of Route 66. We drove over to Devil’s Elbow Bridge, and stopped by the George M Reed roadside park. Roadside parks were common back when people traveled Route 66 as they made great places for picnics and stretching your legs while on your road trip!

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Roadside parks would be fabulous now as we travel, but unfortunately we live in a society where people would rather abuse and destroy than appreciate and preserve.

Day five was partially spent on the military base for Family Day as we were given insight to our Marine’s career path and an opportunity to see the kinds of equipment he’s been trained to use.

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After the ceremonies we took our adopted Marines out for the afternoon for an entertaining lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and an adventure at Ft Wood Escape Room. Thank goodness for my Submariner, because the Marines really struggled with this one!

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We also went bowling. 🎳 Thats all I have to say about that one adventure.

It was bad.

The boys had to be back in the barracks by 1730, so Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 a different direction for some colorfully fun backroad highlights.

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Once back in St. Robert we stopped in at the Route 66 Diner for burgers and fries. Service was phenomenal, and the food, although simple was delicious!

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Day Six started off with MOS graduation. Followed by a tearful goodbye, our Marine boarded a bus headed to the airport.

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After he left Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 towards St. Louis. We passed through Cuba where we had a fabulous lunch at The FOURWAY Diner and drove through this historic little town.

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Cuba, Missouri is known as Mural City

We arrived in St Louis in time to take the last car up to the top of the Gateway Arch. It was the perfect way to end our Route 66 travels.

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After supper, and moving on down the interstate we stopped in Mt. Vernon, Illinois for the night at the Doubletree. There we caught the end of my Alma Mater’s basketball game that put them in the NIT finals.

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Day seven we finally made it back home, but not before stopping at at a fantastic little western store in Marion, Illinois (McKinney’s) for some boot and hat shopping.

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We also made a swing by Lipscomb University (my alma mater) in Nashville to catch a little basketball fever. So much has changed in that part of the city ( in a positive way), and I enjoyed the pass through off of the interstate. Lipscomb holds a lot of precious memories for me!

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My old dorm

 

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The tradition of the painted mascot continues on…

While this was a lengthy post, I hope you found some inspiration for your own vacation plans as summer is right around the corner! I plan to detail our visit to Mansfield, St. Louis and a little glimpse of our short drive on Route 66! Hope you’ll stop back by!

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Beloved Benefit

Last night I had the privilege of attending the 1st (hopefully to become annual) Beloved Benefit; a fundraiser to help restore Atlanta’s Westside communities.

This was such a great evening that brought together around 2000 Atlantans to help bring awareness and support for nonprofit organizations like Westside Works, the Grove Park foundation, Westside Future Fund, City of Refuge and At-Promise Youth Center. Sponsored by the Chick Fil A Foundation and AMB Group, LLC (Arther Blank of Home Depot), 100% of proceeds going to these nonprofits working to revitalize historic Westside neighborhoods.

This is not meant to be a political event (y’all, politics destroys communities), but an event that unites communities to preserve, engage and save another community; one that is our neighbor.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beloved Community” mentioned in his speeches and writings, this unique evening brought together both celebrities and Atlanta neighbors to unite around the historic Westside community; a community dying in poverty.  As members of any community we should all remember that when “one person suffers, we all suffer.”

It’s up to us to make a change and help our neighbors.

The evening was hosted by comedian Steve Harvey and featured speakers included Rev. Bernice King (the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr) and Justin E Giboney leaving us with inspired and informative messages (that brought tears) encouraging us to take action for our neighboring communities.  Jeff Foxworthy, rapper, TI and Ceelo Green, and mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms were just a few notable people who introduced each of the nonprofits.

Entertainment that reflected Atlanta and the Westside community was provided by the staff and children of the Atlanta Music Project, including a spine-tingling version of Stand By Me with Casey J and Crystal Nicole.  A group of dance students from a Westside studio also performed a fantastic interpretive dance routine for us.  The evening was capped off by a performance from Bruno Mars that had the Mercedes Benz Stadium rocking!

Check out these images from the evening and see how you can help with the Beloved Benefit effort by clicking here.  If you aren’t in Atlanta, make an effort to check out similar efforts in your own communities.  Quit thinking the government is going to save our country; let’s go out, help unite our communities and save ourselves!

Bruno Mars taking the stage

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Doc Chey’s Noodle House

Living in Atlanta, while not my favorite place, does have it advantages. I enjoy good food; unique food, and you can find just about anything to fit your taste in the Atlanta area. Recently Tammie and I went out to lunch at a little restaurant over in old Grant Park, just across from the historic Oakland cemetery called Doc Chey’s Noodle House.

Doc Cheys Noodle House / Fiddle Dee Dee

Welcome to Doc Chey’s Noodle House!

This Asian inspired restaurant had a menu that screamed my name and great Yelp reviews, but when we entered we were the only ones there, which definitely had us questioning our decision!

It didn’t take long for the place to fill up though, and by the time our food was brought to the table Doc Chey’s was packed!

Menus are by the door when you enter the restaurant, so you just walk up, place your order, and sit yourself wherever to enjoy your meal, which is brought out shortly.

I ordered steamed Shanghai dumplings to start off our lunch. These were handmade and stuffed with pork and ginger. Honestly y’all, I could’ve ate seconds and thirds of these delicious dumplings and skipped a main entree!

Shanghai Dumplings at Doc Chey's / Fiddle Dee Dee

Doc Chey's Shanghai Dumplings / FIddle Dee Dee

Since it was a chilly, rainy day I chose Thai Coconut soup with shrimp for my entree.

Thai Coconut Soup with Shrimp / Fiddle Dee Dee

Y’all, it’s a huge bowl!

Doc Chey's Thai Coconut Soup / Fiddle Dee Dee

The addition of chicken to the coconut soup made it extremely filling!

With red peppers, scallions, mushrooms, Asian pesto, chili oil and shrimp simmered in a coconut chicken broth this dish is packed with flavor as well!

Shrimp Thai Coconut Soup / Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie enjoyed a bowl of Chinese Chicken Soup. It looked so good and she enjoyed every last drop!

Chinese Chicken Soup / FIddle Dee Dee

As always I sipped water with my meal, but also added a pot of hot peach ginger green tea. The perfect accompaniment to this delicious lunch and the dreary southern winter day.

Green Tea / Fiddle Dee Dee

Doc Chey’s has three locations across Atlanta, and not only makes the perfect luncheon spot for the girls, but a great date night restaurant choice as well!

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Wellness Wednesday: InTown Salt Room

While I no longer train clients or write much about it, I still train myself and keep up with health and wellness trends as I continue to strive to be healthy for myself and my family. Over the last couple of years I’ve really learned becoming healthy is very much a mind game as much as it is a physical game. In order to be truly healthy we must maintain a good relationship and balance between our minds, bodies, and spiritual lives. I have loved dabbling and studying homeopathic ways of healing the mind and body, and have been fascinated by certain methods from cryotherapy to essential oils for a while now.

If you read any health publication you’re likely to find an article referencing the benefits of pink Himalayan salt. It doesn’t matter if you have added it to your diet or added a salt lamp to your home, so many people I know have tested the waters using this useful organic mineral and are discovering a few of its benefits.

Last week I was invited to visit the InTown Salt Room located in the historic Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta. While you can sometimes find a Salt Room experience in a spa setting, the owner of InTown Salt Room, Carrie Wright, is proud to have the only space fully dedicated to salt therapy in Atlanta.

Salt Bricks made from salt mined from the Himalayan Mountains

Intown Salt Room, is a technological and modern 1,000 square foot space with 6,000 pounds of Himalayan salt incorporated in the decor. It’s a serene setting from the moment you walk in, and you carry that serenity while feeling at peace when you walk out!

The salt covering the walls, floors, and through the building was mined from the salt caves of the Himalayan mountains and imported.

Intown Salt Room offers two unique salt room experiences, a Breathing Room and Meditation Room. Each breathing and meditation session is 30 minutes, where you simply sit in a zero gravity chair, relax to calming music and breathe.

The “breathe room” is a private getaway of Himalayan salt,” infused with the purest of salt air. Breathing in a dry salt room, known as dry salt therapy, can cleanse your airways and allow you to take in more oxygen for a deeper breath. In addition to respiratory benefits, dry salt can have a positive effect on skin and be naturally calming to help relieve stress, anxiety and fatigue.”

The treatment, known as dry salt therapy (or halotherapy), dates back hundreds of years to Eastern Europe (where it was noticed the miners of salt had less respiratory issues than others in the same communities), and is purported to offer a variety of health benefits. These include relief from respiratory ailments such as asthma, allergies, bronchitis, colds, ear infections and sinusitis, as well as skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes and rosacea, as well as aiding in inflammation according to the Salt Therapy Association.

The “Meditation room” combines Himalayan salt with sound therapy to help you relax. “Slip on a pair of headphones and sink into one of their zero gravity Wave Loungers built with Acoustic Resonance Technology™, for a whole body sensory experience. This mind and body meditation encourages you to be present and calm, leaving you rested and rejuvenated.”

Completely rested and rejuvenated was exactly how I felt as I left the meditation room.  Honestly I felt like I didn’t have a single care in the world.

I really want a wall of salt bricks in my bedroom now.

While you can certainly do a salt room on your own, visiting with a friend is a great way to relax and enjoy this spa-like and unique experience! I invited Tammie ( Talking with Tami ) to accompany me. As relaxed as we were when we left the salt room, lunch out seemed to be even more laid back and enjoyable. We were both so relaxed!

I found myself completely absorbed in both salt room experiences, and I think I could definitely become a believer in the idea of salt therapy. This experience is definitely something I am open to doing again, and often.

Check out a salt room experience near you and let me know what you think?