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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From Veteran’s Wife & Momma to Military Mom & Empty Nester

Bradley left for Parris Island last Sunday.

This is no picnic on a beach; my son is training with the best to become a United States Marine!

Y’all, Audley & I are so proud! I’ll admit, I am a wee bit nervous. I know how hot Southern summers are; the heat index is 103° today here outside Atlanta! Can you imagine the South Carolina coast? He’s a tough kid choosing to leave this time of year. Audley went to Oklahoma for Army boot camp and then when he changed branches went through boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois for the Navy (yes, my hubby served in both; thought the Navy had better schools & made the switch), so his weather experiences were a whole lot different!!

Serving & supporting our country is very important in our family.

Leaving Day … June 10 from the recruiting center in Athens

Bradley’s going to answer to a whole new level Of authority, a level that as strict as I was on my kids, he can’t fathom! He kept telling everyone I prepared him for the DI’s.. yeah he doesn’t have a clue!

The 12 weeks he has remaining ( it’s hard to believe one has already passed!) are going to be weeks of massive transformation; he’s going to learn to make a “rack”; an epic #momfail based on the condition of his room after he left!

{Y’all it was BAD!!}

While he is transforming into a Marine, Audley & I will make the transition into empty nesters. We have never never experienced “just us”. I became a full-time Momma the day we said “I Do” and for 23 years my identity has been Audley’s wife and eventually the mom of four amazing kids! It’s kind of exciting to discover the adventures hubby and I will enjoy together without having to plan every detail around lacrosse, wrestling, band, color guard, soccer, baseball, and youth group.

Unlike so many couples who fall apart at this stage of life because they cant adjust I am sure we are going to be just fine and dive into adventures we never experienced as newlyweds! We have worked hard over the last 23 years to keep us and our marriage first so that we aren’t two strangers living together. It’s kind of exciting.

Out in a canoe at Watson Mill Bridge State Park over the weekend

Now that graduation and the busyness of the spring has passed I’m planning to do a much better job of blogging! So for those who have stuck around, thank you!! I hope my summer content inspires you to dive into adventures and enjoy where you are in life both at home and out and about!

Graduation 2K18 & the Future

For the third time in three years and fourth time overall we have celebrated another graduation in our little family.  Last weekend was so special as siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends all celebrated this youngest child of ours.

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Audley and I couldn’t be more proud of the four children we’ve raised and the young adults they have and are becoming.

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If you follow me on social media (you really ought too!), you know our Bradley has enlisted in the Maine Corps and leaves in just 6 days for boot camp at Parris Island, SC.

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This was not a decision made lightly, but one Bradley has carefully weighed and considered.  Bradley’s decision was made in part because honestly, the military is in his blood.  Audley was a Navy submariner, his grandfather in the Army national guard, his great-grandfather & that whole generation of great-great uncles on both sides of the family were in the Navy, Air Force and Army serving in WWII and the Korean Conflict, and his great-great grandfather served in WWI, with other direct descendants fighting in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.  Service for what one believes in and in this country is in Bradley’s genes; it just comes natural.

Bradley’s decision was also made because he absolutely despises school and he realized that there was no reason to borrow or pay money to be somewhere he didn’t want to be. He isn’t interested in trade school right now either as he isn’t bent that way.  Bradley is a natural born leader, a protector, and a servant.  He desires to take care of others and a college classroom is most certainly NOT going to satisfy that need!

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I applaud his decision.  Not everyone is cut out for college, yet society (or the student loan companies) seem determined everyone needs to go!  As parents we should not make our kids into what and who we think they should be in their careers, but lead and guide them in the direction their personality and desire takes them.  Bradley has chosen service to his country; a country he is actually very proud to live in.  As a matter of fact, about 20 of his classmates have made that same decision!  They are joining the guard, the Navy, Army and a total of five will be Marines with my son; one just left for boot camp just three days after graduation!

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Some of Bradley’s friends have chosen trades.  Kudos to them!  You do NOT have to have a four-year degree to be a success in life!  Ask my husband who works with welders, steelworkers, and the like everyday and are making 6-figure salaries.

Now before you start passing judgement, I am not anti-college.  First, I have a bachelors degree (although I’ve never used it) in Public Relations and Mass Communications.  After serving six years in the Navy,  Audley, first studying to be an EMT & Paramedic (these are both license programs), now has his Master’s degree and a list of letters from professional certifications behind his name that have benefitted him greatly in his career of construction safety.  Our oldest, Samantha, has an associates in general ed which allowed her to sit for certification programs, giving her a career in the medical field that she absolutely LOVES!  MacKenzie will graduate with her bachelors next year in Exercise Science (a field which she is passionate about) and plans to sit for a couple of certifications, one allowing her to train athletes.  Madeline is also working on her 4-year degree although I’m pretty sure she’s majoring only in Lacrosse right now, but having a lot of fun on that scholarship!   Each of our children chose their own paths into adulthood, including two who married at 20 years old!  We’ve encouraged them to follow their dreams , supported them and offered guidance when we saw they needed it.

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Samantha & Justin; December 2012

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MacKenzie & Michael; June 2017

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Madeline looking fierce in white!

When I graduated college the keynote speaker made the statement that “if you don’t love the field in which you are working, get out of it and find a new path”.  Unhappiness in a career affects you not only at work, but in your personal life as well.

So here’s to you Class of 2018!  Don’t let societal peer pressure dictate which path to take.  Follow your passions and your heart into a career path you love.  Be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher.  Become a personal trainer, a welder, a photojournalist.

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Bradley with his recruiter

And if your heart says be a Marine, by all means, BE A MARINE!

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A Letter to my Son

I’ve been a little preoccupied the last several weeks as this season of life is swiftly passing by.  In just one week my youngest child and only son will walk across the stage to receive his high school diploma …. and in three weeks he will leave for Parris Island as he has enlisted in the Marine Corps.  It’s just a little emotional around here right now.

{OK, it’s just me that is  little emotional.}

Today is Bradley’s senior picnic, and as a part of the traditions at Loganville is the receiving of senior letters from friends and family.  I wanted to share my (rather long… sorry) letter that I wrote to Bradley as he enters a whole new world in the coming days.

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May 2018
Dear Bradley,

When you came into this world you taught me to look at things in a whole new way! After having three girls, I didn’t know what to expect of this chubby darling boy God knew I needed. In a way I have dreaded this day for 18 years now, but at the same time I am so excited for your future that I can’t help but beam with pride between the tears. You have grown up to be an amazing young man with a future so bright others should be jealous! Everyone loves you, is proud of you, and I absolutely know that you will be able to do wonderful things in this life, not only in leadership (you are a natural born leader), but by being your own kind hearted, loving, intelligent and entertaining self!

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First Day of Kindergarten

I’ve loved watching you grow and mature these last 18 years; growing into a responsible man, but also maintaining your irresistible ­mischievousness of spirit. My word how you have always been, and I hope will always be mischievous! From sandwich incidents at school to thinking you were being sneaky to visit grands, I can’t begin to count the number of times you have managed your way out of trouble because of your wit and that twinkle in your eye. You’ve tried my patience, been my conscious, a fitness cheerleader, accepted change with little complaint (although your heart hurt) and stepped into the roll of a man while helping around the house while your dad travelled.

Through all your life I have talked to you freely about everything. That is because I love you. While I always wanted to shield you from the darkness of the world, I also wanted you to know that things aren’t always what God had intended for them to be. By being open with you I hope you learned the difference between right and wrong, what God expects for you in your life, and know you can always come to me with anything. Just for a moment I want to talk freely with you again as you graduate and leave for boot camp.


Live a Life of Love. Love is not just romance; it is a way to live your life. Love is so many beautiful things as pointed out in I Corinthians 13 (patient, kind, self-sacrificing, etc)… You can take these principles of love and use them in all aspects of your life, even boot camp believe it or not. Living a life of love means every person you encounter will see God in you and know you truly care for people.  You can live a life of love and still be a man.  Love is not weakness; it is strength.

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Live a Life of Purpose. God wants us to lead purposeful lives and lives that reflect Him. There are so many ways to do this, but it’s mostly living your life with a set of values and beliefs that God expects of you. I hope you have grown to have your own, and not just relied on your dad and I to give you a purpose. Have passion in all that you do and set priorities so that you accomplish all the goals that you have for your life.  Be the strong man God intended for you to be and you will be a world changer.

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Life a Life with No Regrets. See the world, love passionately and give of your time and efforts to those you are close too, as well as strangers. Not everyone will appreciate it, but at the end of the day do not regret anything you have done. At the same time, don’t hold grudges. Life is too short to spend hating and not forgiving others. They may not reciprocate the actions, but when you look back over your life know you have forgiven and don’t regret how things went. In the same manner, see all that the world has to offer; from history to culture your adventures in the Marine Corps and even after when you return to the civilian world will be amazing. Savor every moment and DON’T FORGET TO TAKE PICTURES!!!


Live a Life Being True to Yourself. Don’t let the world influence you into doing the wrong things; you influence the world into doing the right! Unfortunately peer pressure doesn’t disappear when you walk out of high school and into the adult world. Sometimes I think it is worse as an adult. Stay true to the values and morals you have been raised with and maintained over the years and don’t let some other Marine, girl, job, or even Christian (you know not all are who they say they are) influence you to turn away. I have said it so many times, you are a natural leader. From the friendships you have chosen to the wonderful work ethic you have developed, we know you can lead.  Be that leader.

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Live Life my son. Climb a mountain, learn to sail that boat, earn your pilots license, work for promotions, try that foreign cuisine, learn to scuba dive, preach a sermon at least once, marry the girl who completes you … don’t be afraid to live, experience, and share your life! When you are older and telling stories to your children and grandchildren I want you to be able to tell them you truly loved and lived! Don’t look back and say “I wish….” LIVE. And yes, I am repeating myself, TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES!

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I know you will do the right things in life because you were raised to do so. Always remember to keep your temper and your given word, stay faithful to the Christ and the Church, and always be loving.

I Love you so much my son,
Mom

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