Despite the sadness of saying goodbye to friends and family in Tennessee, we were thrilled to be heading to Birmingham to visit our most wonderful friends, the Henriques Family! We have been friends with Heather and Yurii for what feels like forever, and each of my three big kids considers their Henriques counterpart to be their best friend, despite having lived apart for six years now. Here's the whole gaggle of 'em!
Nathaniel and Nicholas - frighteningly more man-like...
Gretchen and Emily...sweet friends who use many, many stamps communicating with one another...
This is where I should put a great shot of Lillian and Hannah, but alas, I don't have one! Heather!? (Thank you, Heather!!! Here they are!!)
We were able to spend a couple of days with our dear friends, playing and talking. We also visited The Church at Brook Hills and heard a really wonderful message given by David Platt. Such an encouragement! There were (A LOT!) of tears when it was time to leave. I know I can speak for my whole family when I say that we look forward to spending more precious time with them again.
We literally had miles to go before we could sleep, as it were. So, we pointed the trusty minivan southwest and traveled down to New Orleans. I had been to New Orleans on New Year's Day in 1994 when I played in the University of Miami's marching band at the Cotton Bowl. I knew it would not be as I remembered, given the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, but we were all eager to visit the city. Gustav insisted on beignets at Cafe Du Monde. So...we had beignets and cafe au laits despite the fact that it was a sultry 98 degrees outside!
Now, the beignets rocked. The cafe au laits were incredible. But,
if I EVER have to go to the restrooms at that establishment again, I may just do someone bodily harm.
Yes, they were THAT BAD!
Yeah, he didn't have to go to the restroom there. Hence the playful disposition.
We spent some time driving the streets of New Orleans and then headed up to Baton Rouge where we were to spend the night. What a cool drive! Much of the highway there is elevated, dangling over the immense swamps and bayous. We discussed alligators and crocodiles at length.
Once in Baton Rouge we had a super-fun dinner complete with fried alligator. Everyone loved it. Yep, you guessed it...it tasted like chicken.
Once in our hotel room, Kurt took his usual spot for the night - the closet. At each hotel we made him a "Kurt nest" in the closet. He thought that was pretty stinkin' cool.
The next day we drove down to the coast and put our feet into the unbelievably warm water of the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, it was lovely.
The landscape was so stunningly beautiful. And the shells! So many intact shells and sand dollars. It was positively magnificent!
As we got closer to the ferry which would carry us all over to Galveston, we discussed the horrific hurricane which nearly wiped the city off the map in 1900. We marveled at all the tall houses on stilts, and explained why they were necessary. That evening we made it to San Antonio. Let me just say: "Such a COOL city!!" If I had to pick one place that most surprised and impressed me, I would have to say San Antonio. I really, really loved it. Our first night there we went to The Cove - featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. It is a restaurant, laundromat, and a car wash. Right. I don't know who thought that was a worthwhile combination, but trust me, it is working for them. We had a delicious bison burger...so delicious! and sat outside by the playground and ping-pong table (?) While we were eating a group of guys started playing their guitars and drums and singing right there in front of us. They were really good. We were off to a very good start in San Antonio!
The next day we remembered the Alamo.
Kurt and I walked around and examined all the "canyons" (cannons) while Gustav took the big kids to the more academic portions of the museum. It was such a fun place - and FREE, which always makes it funner.
We walked the absolutely magnificent River Walk back to our hotel. Talk about beautiful. I felt like I was back in Europe. Check out how beautiful it is!
After leaving San Antonio, we drove through forgettable western Texas and eastern New Mexico. I don't even have pictures. Just know that it was about 520 miles and 9 hours of excruciatingly brown, flat land. The following day we made it to Tucson, AZ, for a little visit with grandma.
and a little swimming in her pool. We had all had a fantastic time on our road trip, but as we started to get nearer to home, we were anxious for our own beds and some kind of normal routine.
On the evening of August 19th, our weary band of travelers pulled into the driveway and raced in to greet the dogs. Twenty-one days, six thousand miles, and countless wonderful experiences under our belt, we anxiously crawled into our very own beds.
This was a trip that we will remember forever. It was one big, long opportunity for memory making, and boy did we! I cannot encourage those of you with children enough to plan a road trip with your children. Short, long, near, far. You will not be disappointed.