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.


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!



Madonna & Tommy Lee Rolls



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.






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.


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.






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


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


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!


despite the rain, this was such a memorable destination!


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.




Amish peanut butter …. you MUST try it!

It was amazing.


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!



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!




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.


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.



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”.


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!





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.


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!



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.


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!




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





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.





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.





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.



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.




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!




My old dorm



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!


Nashville Zoo

Our summer is rather hectic trying to balance family, work and pleasure time.  This is the first summer I have ever worked since having children and to say that they are unhappy is an understatement.

Audley and I have put a lot of thought into things we can do to enjoy family time together as well as visit our families who are six hours away.  Recently we ran away for the weekend to Nashville where we enjoyed quite a lovely day at the Nashville Zoo with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews.

We have always loved visiting the zoo and even though our kids are teenagers, the fun that comes with a zoo trip is still a joy to us all!

Before visiting the Nashville Zoo, it’s important to note that this is not the Chicago, Atlanta or St. Louis Zoo.  The Nashville Zoo is smaller and set up as a beautiful park perfect for picnicking and strolling through.  The zoo features an adorable wild animal carousel as well as a super fun playground area known as the “Jungle Gym”, just perfect for my little nieces who joined us.

Welcome to the Nashville Zoo

Welcome to the Nashville Zoo

The day we chose to visit was absolutely beautiful and quite warm for a June day.  But, this is the south so I honestly wouldn’t have expected it to be any other way!

I hope you’ll enjoy this little walk through the zoo with my family!

Ticket gate for the Zoo

Ticket gate for the Zoo

An exhibit of tropical birds greeted us first .... absolutely beautiful without a doubt!

An exhibit of tropical birds greeted us first …. absolutely beautiful without a doubt!

My girls and nieces ... aren't they all so beautiful?

My girls and nieces … aren’t they all so beautiful?


And the boys .... they stayed as far away from the girls as possible, including for pictures.

And the boys …. they stayed as far away from the girls as possible, including for pictures.

With the day being so hot and humid (a typical Southern, summer day), many of the animals want to nap, but were able to enjoy almost all of the animals anyway.  Several were quite photogenic and posed, just for us.

I'm a meerkat lover and this one just kept posing for me.  Isn't he a doll?

I’m a meerkat lover and this one just kept posing for me. Isn’t he a doll?

The kids loved the kangaroos & hanging out in their habitat; these guys were so awesome and would walk right up to you.

The kids loved the kangaroos & hanging out in their habitat; these guys were so awesome and would walk right up to you.

I'm a bird lover and the lorakeet habitat was one of my favorites.  They would land on you if you had nector for them to enjoy.

I’m a bird lover and the lorikeet habitat was one of my favorites. They would land on you if you had nectar for them to enjoy.

Several species of the cat family live at the Nashville Zoo

Several species of the cat family live at the Nashville Zoo

A much prettier version of the "pink flamingo" than I normally see in the south.  hehe

A much prettier version of the “pink flamingo” than I normally see in the south. hehe

The entrance to the Savanna exhibit where the elephants and giraffes live

The entrance to the Savanna exhibit where the elephants and giraffes live




We never quite figured out WHAT kind of animals these were!!
We never quite figured out WHAT kind of animals these were!!

After enjoying the animals, the smaller kids had a little fun riding the carousel and playing on the Jungle Gym playground.  So much for everyone to enjoy and most relaxing indeed!

I love carousels ... they take me back in time.

I love carousels … they take me back in time.

Entrance to the Jungle Gym

Entrance to the Jungle Gym

I loved all of the landscaping around the zoo, from the planters to the garden areas.

I loved all of the landscaping around the zoo, from the planters to the garden areas.

My brother’s company in Nashville has done a lot of work at the zoo (including a current project that should be finished in the fall).  I think they have done a wonderful job helping create such a family space, just perfect for a fun day out.

My girls with my little niece, Kynlee in one of the small decorative garden areas.

My girls with my little niece, Kynlee in one of the small decorative garden areas.

As I said, this isn’t your major metropolitan area zoo, but still a wonderful way to spend the day with the family.  There is plenty of space for picnicking and playing as well as relaxing trails to explore and even interact with so much of God’s creation.  I definitely recommend the Nashville Zoo for an activity and part of a quick get-away.

Have a wonderful week!


Real Estate Love: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s Franklin Estate

I am a huge country music fan and even more so of country sweethearts Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
I love their exquisite taste and style, so when I learned they were selling one of their residences in the Nashville area, I had to check it out!
Listed at $20 million (pocket change, right?), part of this beautiful estate once belonged to Hank Williams Senior, so there is much history there.
With four residences on the property from a main house to a caretakers apartment in the stables, this place has so much to offer.  Check out these gorgeous pictures.
(**All pictures are from
The interior of this house was used in the video Tim & Faith did for their duet “I Need You” while it was being remodeled.
Don’t you just love the exposed wood wall?  SO rustic, yet elegant!



Check out those gorgeous hard-wood floors!


I love that their decorating choices didn’t take away from the style of the house.  Such a calm color scheme.  It is most definitely an escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy schedule.


Sitting out on this porch with a cup of tea would be most relaxing indeed.



According to real estate blog Zillow, the parcel of land that is being sold is 753 acres!




A guest house perhaps?


Looks like there is plenty of space for a kitchen garden!




I totally could see myself living here, but alas, I’m a little short of funds for this gorgeous home!
What do you think of Tim & Faith’s style?