Pictured Rocks – Michigan

On July 26, we moved to Pictured Rocks RV Park and Campground in Christmas, Michigan.  It was raining/drizzling when we left, and it was cloudy for most of the day.  The clouds cleared and it was  sunny in the evening.  It was humid the entire day.  After we had set up our RV in our RV site (in the rain), we went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  We visited the visitor center first to get information.  There was a video about the rocks at the visitor center, but most of the video and displays were about fishing in Lake Superior (because Pictured Rocks is right on Lake Superior).

Next, we drove along the main road through Pictured Rocks NL which goes from Munising to Grand Marais, which takes about an hour to drive and stopped at a few places:

Munising Falls:  We walked the short trail to view the waterfall from the bottom.  The first part of the trail was walking along or near the river that flowed from the waterfall and we crossed some bridges to get there.

A lookout over Lake Superior

Log Slide:  This trail is called Log Slide, but I didn’t see any logs as I had expected to see.  A trail led to a big sand dune, which was almost 200 feet above Lake Superior.  It was named after a chute that logging companies used to slide logs down into the lake.  We didn’t go down the sand dune; it can take five minutes descend, and an hour to get back up because of its steepness.

Sable Falls and Beach:  This trail had 168 steps.  We hiked to the waterfall, then beside the river, then to the beach where it emptied into Lake Superior.  The beach was mostly rocks.  There were a lot of pretty ones like quartz and granite.  On the beach, I was able to wade in the river that came from the waterfall and led into the lake.  It was pretty fast flowing.  I took a rock from the beach that was half granite and half quartz (or at least that’s what I think the rock was).

I will talk about the actual “pictured rocks” later on in this blog post.

On the way back home, we stopped at Seney National Wildlife Refuge.  There was a seven mile auto tour route, called the Marshland Wildlife Drive, leading through the refuge that we drove on.  It took us though forests and wetland areas with ponds and marshes.  We saw some trumpeter swans and a few sandhill cranes.  Along the sides of the roads, there were lots of milkweed plants with pretty pink flowers, berry bushes, pine and other trees, and monarch butterflies.

On August 1, we rented a pontoon boat from Seaberg Pontoon Rentals on Lake Superior.  It was the perfect day to go boating, since it was sunny and warm.  We went around Lake Superior and an island in it called Grand Island.  We got to see an old lighthouse, waterfalls, beaches, rock formations, and the pictured rocks.  The pictured rocks were very pretty.  They were tall rock cliffs with stripes of color, from brown and red to green and blue, streaking across and down them.  On top of the cliffs, I saw hikers and trees.  Parts of the cliffs had fallen down into the lake and on the beaches under the cliffs, along with the trees that were on them.  While we drove around the lake in our pontoon boat, we saw a lot of kayakers, who were looking at the rocks.  They were able to go into small crevices of and very near to the rock walls.  Under one rock arch, there was a pile of debris from something crumbling.  It could’ve been part of the arch itself.  The pile was really tall, and tons of seagulls were sitting on it.  They made me laugh, for their squawks echoing off of the arch’s walls sounded like the hooting of monkeys to me.  We got to drive through another arch with our boat, and the water underneath was quite shallow.  Water was dripping down from the top of the arch, so it looked like it was drizzling in some areas.  We stopped at a few beaches as well, where my brothers swam in the water and played in the sand and rocks.

We had lunch and dinner on the boat (spam musubis and pasta salad), and we stayed out almost all day.  We also ate a lot of snacks, like chips and pastries.  It was very enjoyable for me to be out in nature, and it was a very long day, but after boating, we went to one more place.

After returning the pontoon boat and taking everything back to our truck, we stopped at Bay Furnace Historic Site, which is in Hiawatha National Forest.  There was the ruins of a furnace at the site (which was recently stabilized), that was once used to make iron in the late 1800’s.

Sleeping Bear Dunes – Michigan

On July 10, we moved to Northwestern Michigan Fair in Traverse City, Michigan.  The RV park had only electric and water (no sewer connection) so we were only staying the weekend.  The Traverse City area was similar to Michiana, but less populated since it is farther north in northern Michigan.  The towns were more spread out and there were more pine trees and other beautiful foliage.  It is also close to the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline, and Traverse City is along the shore of Grand Traverse Bay.

The next day, July 11, we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and went to the following places:

Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, Michigan:  There were displays with stuffed animals that could be found in the area.  It was neat to learn about the different ecosystems in the park, such as the beaches, forests, and wetlands.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive:  Very pretty drive where we could see Glen Lake from some overlooks, as well as Lake Michigan and North and South Manitou Islands (which represents the two bear cubs in the Legend of Sleeping Bear).

Dune Climb:  We climbed about half of this giant sand dune.  It was steep and very tall, so half was a lot.  From the top, I could see Glen Lake and an ocean of shining cars in the parking lot below.  Running down the dune was fun!

Glen Haven Village:  It started as a refueling stop for ships traveling west on the Great Lakes.  Over time, it grew into a village.  We stopped at the blacksmith shop, where a blacksmith apprentice told us the history of the town and showed us a hanger/hook that he had tried to make to look like one done by an experienced blacksmith.  He showed us some tools that are used in blacksmithing.  The bike racks right outside the shop had been made in the blacksmith shop.

USLSS Maritime Museum: the Museum building was closed, but there was a volunteer in the boathouse who talked to us about the U.S. Life-Saving Service and showed us the equipment used by them in many rescues in the dangerous Manitou passage.  He told us about the dozens of shipwrecks in this passage, which were common due to the shallow shoals that were unknown to sailors.

Esch Road Beach:  Esch Beach is one of the many beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  This beach had very pretty rocks and fossils on the shore.  This stretch of shoreline on Lake Michigan is also known for the Petoskey stone, which is a rock and fossilized coral.  The Petoskey stone can only be found around Lake Michigan.  The water here at Esch Beach was just like we experienced in the lower parts of the lake: cool and wavy.  In the water, there was a pretty quick decline to a (around) 4 1/2 feet deep water level.  After that, it sloped back up to where the water only covered my legs.  Out from there, I am pretty sure that the water was deep, but it was very cool to be standing on a sand dune/bar in the middle of the water.

On the way home from Sleeping Bear, we stopped at this U-pick fruit and berry farm called Jacob’s Berry Patch.  We picked local Michigan grown raspberries and cherries.  The strawberry season had just finished and the saskatoons were not quite ripe yet.  The raspberries and cherries were sweet and tasty.  The evening was cool and perfect for fruit-picking.

A Great Lake – Michigan

On June 22, we moved to Ohio.  We stayed at National Road Campground in Zanesville, Ohio for a week, visiting with some friends, the Hoffmans.  We had met the Hoffmans over 4 years ago in 2016 while we lived in McKinney, Texas and they lived nearby in Richardson, Texas.  They recently moved to Ohio a few years ago to be closer to family.  We went over to their house a few times, and they came over to our RV park once.  The RV park had a playground with swings and a cornhole (bean bag toss game) area, so we played there.  Mr. Josh made his famous bacon grease popcorn.

We also saw our first Tim Horton’s here in Zanesville since Canada last year in 2019.  We didn’t realize Tim Horton’s was in the states and were thrilled to get coffee there!

On June 28, we moved to Bear Cave RV Campground in Buchanan, Michigan.  This general area is known to locals as Michiana (a combination of Michigan and Indiana) because the areas blend into each other around the state boarder here.  Locals go back and forth to shop, eat out, and recreate.  In this area, there are lots of fruit farms (blueberries were in season when we were there as well as cherries) as well as fruit farm stands and U-picks.  It’s a very pretty area but also very crowded as many locals and tourists flock to the beach along the shores of Lake Michigan during the summer heat.

On July 3, we went to an Indiana Dunes National Park in nearby Indiana.  The national park stretches 15 miles around the southern shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its sand dunes.  The state park area with beach access (which is within the national park) was packed this holiday weekend with a huge line of cars down the main road, so we opted to drive to a different area of the national park: the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education.  Here we learned more about Indiana Dunes and did junior ranger books.  Later in the day, we took a scenic shoreline drive within the national park and got to see the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair Century of Progress Homes, which were built at that time to show the modern houses that could be built, with materials like glass, and with things like dishwashers and air conditioners.

After that, we went to Pullman National Monument in Chicago, Illinois.  We were given a tour by a ranger and learned about the Pullman area.  George Pullman designed sleeping cars that were comfortable and luxurious for railroads.  As demand for his cars grew, Pullman bought land and started a model town.  He designed his town to be beautiful, clean, and orderly, and he allowed only his workers to live there (while paying rent).  By the day’s standards, it was a very nice town, far above other towns’ standards.  However, Pullman put strict rules over the town, even to where tenants had to ask permission to plant flowers in their front yard.

When the demand for Pullman’s cars went down, Pullman decreased his workers’ wages without decreasing their rent.  This led to strikes and boycotts, which were sometimes violent, and they spread across America.  Pullman died in 1897, the Pullman Company was ordered to sell all non-industrial holdings, and Robert Todd Lincoln became the new president of the company.  Eventually, sleeping cars on railroads were no longer needed.  Pullman’s model town was a failure.

At the town, we looked at the historic homes and some of the old buildings.  We didn’t go inside, however.  The houses were being rented out.

On July 4, we visited Grand Mere State Park in Stevensville, Michigan.  We took a hike through a marshy forest, over hot sand dunes, and finally arriving at the shores of Lake Michigan.  The sand dunes were really big, and they were also super hot.  Climbing up them was difficult, but running down was fun.  The water of Lake Michigan was refreshingly cool and there were fun waves to swim in (just like the ocean).  However, unlike the ocean, it was freshwater, meaning that it didn’t sting my eyes.  The sand here was very fine and soft.

When we were going back home to our RV park, we found people doing fireworks right outside the park entrance in the residential area.  We were able to pull over and watched them set off tons of big aerial fireworks for about an hour.  There must have been thousands of dollars’ worth of fireworks.  It was like a professional firework show.  At the end, they did a grand finale, which is the video below.  It was a nice ending to our Independence Day.

The next day, July 5, we went to Local Harvest Michigan Fruit Stand, where we bought some local Michigan vegetables, blueberries, and cherries.  (We recently tried the Michigan grown onions from there, and they were super sweet and delicious!)  After that, we went to Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Michigan and stayed on the beach for a few hours.  Just like Indiana Dunes and Grand Mere, Warren Dunes is known for its huge sand dunes and the cool waters of Lake  Michigan.  The sand here was more rocky than the last beach, with small pebble-sized rocks mixed into the sand.

The Creation Museum – Kentucky

Ark Encounter

On Saturday, June 20, we visited the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.  First, we went to the zoo and playground there.  The playground had a zipline sort of thing, which we really liked.  At the zoo, there were animals, including a wallaby, coati, zorse, and zonkey (all animals we had never seen before).

The museum was very well designed.  The decorations, colors, display setups, and wall designs gave each room a unique theme.  Mostly everything in the Creation Museum was about the Bible and how science relates to it.  It taught how evolution and creationism are different, how the different views line up with the evidence, and how, based on the creationist point of view, you should respond to it.  We watched a few movies inside, including one that was projected onto a wall and looked like it was being painted, a movie in the planetarium about aliens being fiction, and there was also a 4-D movie that was really cool about the seven days of creation.

Outside, we walked on a floating bridge and looked at the beautiful landscaping.  The floating bridge was bouncy and shaky, so some of us jumped while we walked to make it go up and down.

Going here was a very nice change for me.  This was the only museum I have ever visited that teaches from the creationist point of view.  All others I have been to teach from the evolutionist view, which omits God from the picture.

The next day, June 21, we visited William Howard Taft National Historic Site in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio.  William Taft was our 27th president.  He is the only person to have ever had the highest position in both the judicial and executive branches of the U.S. government.  We self-toured the Taft family house where William Taft was born and grew up.

After the Taft NHS, we stopped by at the Cincinnati Art Museum (also in the city of Cincinnati), which was free.  There were a lot of different types of paintings, sculptures, statues, and other art things like pottery and cultural decorations.  The building itself was a piece of art, with its architecture and design.

Finally that day, we went to the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky.  It is basically a recreated version of the ark that Noah, his family, and tons of animals would’ve waited out the worldwide flood in.  The ark was built to be as close to Noah’s one as possible.  The people in charge used the measurements from the Bible, and they decorated the inside based off of the most logical explanations of how the animals and people would’ve fit in the ark.  Exhibits inside explained the flood, how the world was before it, and how it was afterwards.  The ark was really big, with four stories and tons of wood.  It is actually the world’s largest freestanding timber frame structure.

Outside the ark, bushes were cut to look like pairs of animals marching into the ark.  We also went to the zoo and playground there.  The zoo was a little bit different than the one at the Creation Museum in the animals it had (we saw kangaroos and an ostrich).  The playground was bigger here, and it had more things to use.

The Bluegrass State – Kentucky

On June 14, we moved to Diamond Caverns RV Resort & Golf in Park City, Kentucky.  Then, we went to Mammoth Cave National Park and hiked a few miles on trails which were a little steep.  Mammoth Cave protects the largest known cave system in the world, with over 400 miles of cave.  We didn’t go into the caves, and we just hiked above them, because the tours cost money and were sold out anyway.  It had been drizzly at first in the day, but when we got to Kentucky, it was sunny and hot, though it looked like it had rained earlier.

On June 19, we moved to Little Farm on the River RV Park, in Rising Sun, Indiana.  On the way, we went to Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park and Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home at Knob Creek.  At the first place, there was a monument for Abraham Lincoln with 58 steps, 2 to represent the number of terms he served as president, and 56 to represent his age when he was assassinated.  There was also the Sinking Spring, which is a spring slightly lower than the ground, which the Lincolns would’ve used to get water when they were living there.  It was cold near the spring, probably because it was underground.  Abraham Lincoln was born here in his family’s log cabin in 1809.  In 1811, they had to leave Sinking Spring over land disputes and moved to Knob Creek (the second place that we visited).  Abraham Lincoln lived in a few more places later on his life.  He was our 16th president, and he is known for preserving the Union and abolishing slavery.  Abraham Lincoln, although born and raised on a farm out in the country, mostly educated himself and was able to become many things, eventually the president of the United States of America.  The second place, Knob Creek, had cabins, which we couldn’t enter, because of COVID-19.  The weather was humid and hot.

COVID-19/Part 3 – Tennessee

May 16, 2020 – Daddy and us four children went on a scenic drive on and around the Natchez Trace Parkway.  We stopped to hike a couple of trails and look at waterfalls and rivers.

May 2020 – We went a few times to the lake in our RV park and swam, kayaked, and boated in it.  The water was warm enough to swim in because the temperature of the area had warmed up considerably since the first time we had gotten there.  In the lake, there were lots of turtles and fish, so we also fished.  Daddy fried the fish we’d caught, and we ate them for dinner.

This is the last post in the COVID-19 Blogs series, so here are my thoughts and feelings about the pandemic:

My life during and after the COVID-19 stay-at-home-thing was basically the same as it had been before.  We stayed at home during the week, most of the time, and on the weekends, we did something (usually).  Because we were in a lowly populated area, we could go out into nature and hike without masks.  Daddy still worked as he always did – from home, on his computer.  I could still do everything that I usually did for “work” – writing and blogging (although bad wifi often messed with my blogging).  I could play video games and knit for fun, as well as read books, so I was never bored.  Us children still did school like usual, since we had been doing homeschool for our entire lives.

When we went to the grocery store, however, it was interesting to see the shelves of toilet paper, water bottles, meat, pasta, and pasta sauce almost empty.  We only had to wear our masks a couple of times when going to places like the grocery store, but we didn’t go many times.

But what about the virus itself?  Was I ever worried about that?  At first I was, but I reminded myself that if I died from catching the virus, I would go to heaven, and that was a good thing.  I would be able to start my eternal life of happiness and worshiping the one who’d saved me and loves me most.  Besides that, I and my family are young and healthy, and people like us don’t usually die from COVID-19.  In fact, a lot of people don’t even show symptoms when they get it.  Also, God tells us to not worry and to trust in him.

There was, however, one big difference in my life that COVID-19 made: we couldn’t go to other places and travel to other states.  But that was a temporary change, and I found it relaxing for the time that it lasted.

To sum it up, COVID-19 didn’t affect my life very much in a negative way.  If anything, it brought me closer to the Lord, and it helped me to trust in him more.

COVID-19/Part 2 – Tennessee

March 27, 2020 – The Ehrenheims (our family who we visited a few blog posts ago) came over to stay in a cabin in our RV park for a few days.  We had fun with them, eating, fishing, and roasting marshmallows and Peeps over a campfire.

I got my first tick ever.  Since it had gotten hotter recently, the bugs and insects had started to come out.  The tick I got was a female lone star tick.  It had a white dot on its back.  I have to admit, I was totally freaked out, and I got my oldest brother to pull it out for me.

April 4, 2020 – We drove on the Natchez Trace Parkway and stopped at a few places.  There were a few trails, waterfalls, lookouts, rivers, and pretty forests.  We also got to see a historic brick house, the site of where an iron works used to be, and a historic tabacco farm.

Note that the trees are green now in the pictures, and flowers are blooming.

May 4, 2020 – We went to stay with the Ehrenheims again, because our RV was getting some repairs done on it.  During our stay, we sewed cloth masks to wear because of COVID-19, watched The Secret Life of Pets 2, and ate food.

May 11, 2020 – We got a new kitten.  Daddy and Mommy found her in our trucks engine.  She was only a few weeks old, and she had round worms, mites, ticks, and other parasites.  We started with the name Meri for her, then we changed it to Tennessee, then we updated that to Tennessee (aka Meowzy-D).  Check out the YouTube video that I made about her here.

And now, here is a funny story about my second encounter with a tick:

I woke up from a very nice dream to what I thought was a scab in my bellybutton.  Still half asleep, I tried to pick it out, and it wouldn’t budge.  Then, I realized that it was pinching and burning.  On second thought, I decided that it was a black widow spider (crazy mind), then I remembered that I’d gone into the forest recently and that it could be a tick.  At that thought, I suddenly woke up fully and looked to make sure.  It was a small female lone star tick.  I freaked out just like the last time and woke up Aiden to pull it out, because I was too scared to (sorry, Aiden).  In the end, Aiden could only pull off the tick’s body.  The head was still inside my bellybutton.  Legend has it that the tick head is still there to this day.

COVID-19/Part 1 – Tennessee

When the government started ordering everyone to shelter in place, we were staying at the Natchez Trace RV Campground in Hohenwald, Tennessee.  We remained there for just under three months.  This series of blog posts talks about the time we spent waiting for things to open back up, so that we could start traveling again.

March 21, 2020 – We moved to Natchez Trace RV Campground in Hohenwald, Tennessee.  The internet was bad, but the place was very pretty.  The weather was cold, and most of the trees were bare at first.  Aiden, Mason, Tanner, and I explored in the forest behind our RV.

March 22, 2020 – The weather was still cold.  We went to Meriwether Lewis’ burial place.  Meriwether Lewis was traveling to America’s capital, when he stopped to stay in a cabin for the night.  He was found bleeding from two gunshot wounds, probably from suicide.  By the morning, he was dead.  The monument was a pillar (on a base), which looked chopped off at the top.  The part that looked chopped off was to represent a great life cut short.

Aiden got to play his bugle here, since there weren’t lots of houses or people around.  The bugle was very loud.

March 24, 2020 – We celebrated Mommy’s birthday at home with cake and presents.  I made Mommy two clay cat charms, one which looked like Julius.  I also made her a picture of Ruby sleeping and another of Julius with oil pastels.

More Battlefields of the Civil War – Mississippi

On March 9, we went to an escape room at Escapology.  The room was called “Antidote,” and it was made to look like a scientist’s lab.  We started the escape room off with a short introductory movie, which told the story of how the scientist has been developing deadly viruses, and you are investigating his lab.

In the process of investigating, you accidentally knock down and crack open a vial of the deadly virus.  You are supposed to find the antidote and key to unlock the room, because the lab has gone into lockdown and will kill any living organisms in an hour.

Then, the timer started, and we began to hunt around the room.  There were actually three rooms of the “lab.”  We started in the first and had to find codes to open each room.  Clues were hidden around the room, in files of fake people, on a periodic table of elements, in test tubes of colored liquid, in the weight of fake bottles of medicine, etc.  In the second room, there was a rubber alien-like figure on a table which freaked me out when I first saw it (I thought it was a person).  We finished the escape room with only 28 seconds left on the timer.

On March 15, we moved to Cross City RV Park in Corinth, Mississippi.  On the way, we stopped at multiple NPS sites visitor centers.  There was Shiloh National Military Park, Tupelo National Battlefield, and Brices Crossroads National Battlefield Site.  All were about battles fought during the Civil War.  in one of the pictures below, you can see piles of granite blocks with names of battles fought during the civil war.  The bigger the block, the more casualties there were for that battle.  There was a small waterfall above the blocks and a pool below them.

Caving and Visiting My Cousins – Alabama

On March 1, Sunday, we went caving in a cave on a privately owned property.  The cave was called Tumbling Rock Cave.  Inside the cave, we saw a lot of small, brown bats sleeping.  The cave was a little difficult to travel through, as there were no maintained trails or lighting.  It seemed very natural,  and there were rivers, stalagmites, stalactites, slopes, drop-offs, mud, and ledges.  That made it very fun to explore.  We stayed for about three hours, and we traveled up to a formation called Elephant’s Feet, which were big, thick pillars of calcite.  

On March 6, we moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where we stayed at Daddy’s brother’s family’s house for two days.  This is where Aunty Kristy (see this blog post) made me my personalized T-shirt.  I also played with my two younger cousins.  During those two days, we went to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and Hellen Keller’s Birthplace with them.

At Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, we took a hike and looked at the swamp.  We also attended a presentation in the visitor center’s theater about different birds.  The presenters carried and flew the birds around the room so that everyone could see them.  Some birds that were included were a screech owl, vulture, and bald eagle.

We got to tour the place where Helen Keller was born and taught by Annie Sullivan.  Helen Keller was born in 1880 with both sight and hearing, but at a young age, she lost both to a severe illness.  At age six, Helen met Annie Sullivan, who eventually taught Helen to communicate through the fingertip alphabet, behave (she was spoiled), and read braille.  Helen eventually grew up and graduated, and she helped to improve education for other blind students.  

On March 8, we moved to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s RV park and went inside the place.  There was a planetarium, displays, rides, actual missiles and aircraft, rock wall climbing, a fake mini space station, and more

After, to celebrate Mason’s 12th birthday (which happened on March 7), we went bowling.  We ate dinner there, had cake, and enjoyed ourselves.

Chattanooga and Chickamauga – Alabama

On February 29, we went to Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park.  During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln found it necessary to take control of the small town of Chattanooga.  Why?  Because it is where four major railroads met, and if the Union captured it, they would be able to stop the Confederates from getting supplies.  At first the Confederates controlled the town, but when the Union moved behind them, the Confederates had to abandon the town.  The two sides fought at Chickamauga (a creek) and other places (like mountains) in the area in order to win Chattanooga.  In the end, the Union won control of Chattanooga.

We went to different visitor centers of the NPS site.  We also looked at where parts of the battle would’ve happened.

Russel Cave National Monument is a cave where artifacts detailing the lives of prehistoric cultures were found.  We walked along a boardwalk to the entrance of the cave, but we weren’t able to go into the cave itself.  A new type of arrowhead, the Russell Cave Arrowhead, was found here.

Mountaintop River – Alabama

On February 24, we moved to Crow Creek Camping (try say that three times fast) in Stevenson, Alabama.  On the way, we went to a few places.  Tellus Science Museum was a giant interactive science museum with displays about space, rocks, and fossils mostly.  This museum was different than others we had visited previously, because it had free gem panning and fossil digging.  There was a display with fluorescent rocks (which glow under an ultraviolet light), which was very cool.  There was also an area which taught about sounds, tools, weather, and other things found in daily life.  That area’s design was very cool to me.  It had a gigantic fake tree, and the whole area looked like it came out of a kid’s play set.

Little River Canyon National Preserve protects what some call our nation’s longest mountaintop river.  We went on a scenic drive through the park and stopped at Little River Falls.  It was very loud, and the cold, wet weather only made it more beautiful.

On February 27, we celebrated Aiden’s 14th birthday at home in our RV.  We had cake, and he opened presents from all of us.

Andersonville, Ancient Mounds, and Martin Luther King Jr. – Georgia

February 16, 2020 – We moved to Jones RV Park, in Norcross, Georgia.  On the way, we stopped at a couple of places.  One was Andersonville National Historic Site.  Andersonville (aka Camp Sumter) was a Confederate prisoner of war camp that was used during the civil war in the late 1800’s.  Around 45,000 Union soldiers were held here during Andersonville’s time, and nearly 13,000 of those died from causes such as disease, malnutrition, exposure, and unclean conditions.  The camp was built to hold a much smaller amount of people, and containing so many people led to unhygienic, vermin-infested, and sometimes unlivable conditions.  Union prisoners had to make due with houses like ones made from cloth, adobe-like structures, holes, and small huts.  Sickness spread easily, and there were thieves in the camp.  Food was in low supply, and clean water was mostly unavailable.  This led to some men trying to escape, and only a few survived that attempt.

At the visitor center, we learned all of this.  We did junior ranger books, and at the end, we got cards that pretended we were POW’s at Andersonville and what our fate was.  While Aiden and I “escaped,” Mason “died.”  After that, we went to the Andersonville cemetery.

After visiting Andersonville, we went to Ocmulgee National Historic Park.  It is where four prehistoric cultures are thought to have lived, and we got to go inside an earth lodge whose floor has been carbon dated to be around 1,000 years old.  The tunnel into the earth lodge was narrow and super low.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park – Of course, we learned about Martin Luther King Jr. here.  He was born in times of segregation, and is famous for fighting for equal rights through peaceful ways, such as gatherings and marches.  We got to tour his birth home, visit the building where he pastored the church, and see his grave, which is at the King Center.

The Battle at Horseshoe Bend – Alabama and Georgia

The Battle at Horseshoe bend was fought to end the resistance of the “Creek Indians” to American advancement and control of their land and ways of living.  The Creek Indians were actually different tribes of Native Americans.  Some were opposed to each other during this time, and when the Americans and Creeks fought, some Creek tribes fought on the American side.  In the end, the U.S. won.  The Creeks had to give up almost 20 million acres of land to the U.S. government.

At the NPS site, we watched a short film on the war, then we went to the site of the battle and looked around.

In the first few pictures in the video below, you can see my brothers having fun in our RV park.

On February 15, we moved to a Walmart parking lot in Americus, Georgia.  On the way, we stopped at two places.  The first was the Coca Cola Space Science Center, which was small, but had lots of cool simulators and other displays.  One simulator was a room full of chairs.  The ground shook at certain pints during the movie, and movie was supposed to show you landing a space craft.

The second place we visited was Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.  There, we learned about our former 39th president, who is currently still living (at 95 years old) in the town of Plains, Georgia.  We got to look at his boyhood farm as well.  I mostly remember learning about his early life as a boy, going to school, and helping on the farm.

Amazing African Americans – Alabama

We moved to Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City, Alabama on February 12.  On the way there, we stopped at three NPS sites: Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, and George Washington Carver National Monument.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of mostly African Americans who fought in World War II with aircraft.  They were the first African Americans to ever complete their training and enter the Army Air Corps (of the U.S.).  At the visitor center, we learned about their accomplishments and how they fought racism in their lives.  We looked inside the museums, some of which had planes and decorated rooms.

At the visitor center of George Washington Carver NM, we looked at all the displays.  George Washington Carver was a brilliant agricultural scientist and inventor.  He was born in the late 1800’s, kidnapped at a young age, sold to the Carvers, and taught by them how to read and write.  He later was able to go to college, and he figured out how to deal with soil problems and useful crops which were cheap to grow but had many uses, such as the peanut, soybean, and sweet potato.  He used his knowledge to help others to farm more efficiently.

At Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, we toured Booker T. Washington’s home.  Booker T. Washington was born a slave in 1856, but he rose to fame in adulthood later as a leader at Tuskegee Institute, author, and orator.  Tuskegee Institute was created to allow newly-freed African Americans to get an education, as well as learn useful trades, so that they could earn a living.

Beaches and Forts – Florida

On February 5, we moved to Tanglewood Gardens Mobile Home & RV Park in Brent, Florida.  It was rainy and cloudy that day.  The next day, February 6, we celebrated my 15th birthday in our RV.  We did our homeschool like usual, then I opened presents from my family, and we all had ice cream cake for dessert.

On Saturday, we went to Fort Pickens Area Gulf Islands National Seashore.  It was on a beach, and we were able to walk around the fort.  The fort was built in 1834 to defend Pensacola Harbor, and it played a role in the Civil War.

We went to the visitor center, explored the fort, and played on the beach.  The fort was big and cool.  There were stalagmites inside the fort, probably because of mineral water seeping through the roof for a long time.  There were also small tunnels and cannons.  On the beach, my brothers had fun digging giant holes in the sand.

Another day, we went to Johnson Beach, part of the national park, where we relaxed and my brothers dug giant holes in the sand.

Alligators in the Wild – Louisiana and Alabama

On February 2, we moved to Santa Maria RV Resort Marina in Gautier, Mississippi.  Before moving, however, we went to another of one of the Jean Lafitte national park sites – Barataria Preserve.  There, we went on a ranger-led hike/tour through the marshy, swampy land.  We got to see an alligator up close and a nutria sleeping in some plants on top of the water.  The alligator was a mamma-gator, and she was very calm, even though we were pretty close.  She was sun bathing mostly.  The nutria was brownish orange, and it was very cute sleeping.  The nutria is a large rodent, and to me, it looked like a small capybara.

We visited Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, where we actually didn’t see sandhill cranes.  Instead, we took a hike and found carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts.  Since it was sunny and hot, most of the pitcher plants were brown.

So, since we didn’t get to see Mississippi Sandhill Cranes at the wildlife refuge, I’ll tell you about where we did get to see them – in the RV park we were staying at.  They were very tall, and we didn’t get to get very close to them.

On February 3, we moved to Meaher State Park in Baldwin County, Alabama.  Mommy and us children went to the Five Rivers Delta Center, which was close by, and looked in the different buildings.  We saw bugs, birds, snakes, and rats.  One of the snakes that I liked seeing was the venomous cottonmouth (because it’s venomous, of course!).

The next day, I and my family went to the Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Alabama, which had lots of interactive displays.  The main ones that we looked at were the human body displays, and a display about flying airplanes.  Both were mainly video games, and in the human body educational area, there were displays where you could pretend to do surgery on someone through a touch screen.  My brothers really liked the airplane game, because they could build then fly their airplanes in the video game.

New Orleans – Louisiana

Chalmette Battlefield

On January 31, we moved to Boomtown Casino and Hotel New Orleans  in Harvey, Louisiana.  On the way there, we also went to Wedell-Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum.  At the museum, there were three different sections.  One was about aviation, and there were lots of airplanes, as well as a movie.  Another was about shrimp-catching, and there was a small aquarium tank with different types of shrimp and a few other creatures.  The other one was about cypress trees.  We got to learn about how they cut down and turned trees into planks, and we looked at a whole bunch of machines used for the gigantic treesOn the way there

The next day, we visited the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans, which is another of one of the Jean Lafitte national park sites.  At this visitor center, we learned about the history of New Orleans and how it was built.  New Orleans was originally started by the French in 1718.  The movie that we watched in the visitor center taught about how New Orleans used to be a swamp that was flooded my the Mississippi river depending on the seasons.  We learned how the levees were built to protect the city, an how the drainage system works.

When we first got to New Orleans in the morning, it wasn’t crowded at all, and the weather was sunny but cool.  When we left the French Quarter Visitor Center, it was super crowded.  We walked around and saw people dressed and painted to look like metallic, gold statues, and we also saw many paintings and sculptures.  The buildings in the French Quarter looked fancy to me (they were French style), with their balconies and pillars.

After, we went to the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, which, as the name implies, taught about jazz.  The visitor center was pretty small, and there weren’t many displays about jazz music.  However, there was a program there where we got to learn another form of music.  We learned to play African drums from a man named Segunon who was born in Cote D’ivoire, Africa.  We had lots of fun, and since we were using our hands to drum, my hands were red afterwards and slightly numb.  After the drum lessons, we got to watch him play the African xylophone, which he made, and it looked like planks of wood over gourds.

Finally, we went to Chalmette Battlefield, another of one of the Jean Lafitte national park sites.  In 1812, the U.S. began a war with Britain, a result of Britain forcing people into the Royal Navy, including Americans.  Chalmette Battlefield is where America won the last battle (of the War of 1812) in 1815.  A treaty to end the war had actually been signed, but due to poor communication, the two fighting sides in America didn’t know, and that’s why the battle at Chalmette Battlefield was fought.

Cajun Culture – Louisiana

On January 25, we  went to two of the Jean Lafitte National Park sites in Louisiana (there are a total of 6 sites).  Jean Lafitte was a French pirate and privateer of the Gulf Coast in the early 19th century.  However, on this day we mostly learned about Louisiana’s culture and the influence the French had in this area.  We visited the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Euice, Louisiana and the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Both sites taught us about the early French settlers and their rich culture which people in this area still celebrate.

One holiday celebrated in the area that we learned about was Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).  It is celebrated for many days before Ash Wednesday, when some people fast.  During this time of celebration, people dress up in colorful, silly costumes and have parades, eat food like king cakes, and are decorated with green, gold, and purple bead necklaces.  People in a village would ride horses and travel from house to house.  They also traditionally throw a chicken off the roof and people try to catch the chicken.

We got to listen to Cajun music at one of the visitor centers.  There was French singing, accordions, a fiddle, a triangle, and a guitar.  It was very interesting for me to hear this different style of music than what we normally listen to.

On another day, we went to the Tabasco factory (in Louisiana).  We got to learn how the Tabasco was made, as well as see Tabasco brand things in a museum, but my favorite part of the whole tour was the tasting room.  In the tasting room, I got to try many different Tabasco products, including, hot sauces, steak sauces, balsamic vinegar, mustard, soda, and ice cream.

Vicksburg – Mississippi

On January 19, we moved to a parking lot in Mississippi, by the Natchez visitor center.  The Mississippi river was very wide, brown, and sort of calm-looking.  It was a lot calmer and wider than I had thought it would be.

We spent a day at Vicksburg National Military Park.  It is where, in 1863, Confederate and Union forces fought to control the area for a while.  It is important, because the Confederate army surrendered there, and it marked a turning point in the Civil War for the Union side.

We got to take an audio tour (with a CD we had bought) of the battleground and see many monuments, cool buildings, a graveyard, and a ship, the USS Cairo, which fought for the Union side in the Civil War.  The USS Cairo was sunk, but then later saved and is now on display at the museum.

My favorite building was the Illinois State Memorial.  It was very tall, with many steps in front.  It was white, and when you go inside, you can see the grand design of the marble, the floor, and the walls.  The building was modeled after the Roman Pantheon.  The floor was made up of patterns and had a mosaic of an eagle on it.  The building was huge.  Being inside made me feel like it was made for someone three times the size of me.  After we went out, we heard someone yodeling from inside the monument.  (The inside was echoey.)

We went to Natchez National Historic Park, which had 2 separate pre-Civil War era sites to explore: the William Johnson House (the home of a free black barber in Natchez) and the Melrose estate (a Southern planter class antebellum estate).  Both sites provided insight into what it was like to live in the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s before the Civil War when slave labor was common and being a free black business man was not.  Another memorable stop in the city of Natchez was the historic Forks of the Road Slave Market site.  The Forks in the Road Slave Market was one of the largest slave markets in the United States in the 1830’s until it’s close in 1863.  Today, it looks like any ordinary intersection with a field of grass on the side of the road.  The only visible memory of the slave trade almost 200 years ago is a small display of slave shackles embedded in concrete in the ground on the sidewalk.

At this time of the year and in this area, it was cold, a bit windy, and overcast or drizzly, but the boys still enjoyed skateboarding, building campfires, and playing outside the RV at Plantation RV Park in Natchez.

Before leaving Natchez to return to Louisiana, we visited the Mount Locust Inn on the Natchez Trace Parkway at mile marker 15.5.  This inn served travelers who were going down the river by boat to sell goods in New Orleans.  These people would sell their goods, along with their boat (since paddling upstream would be too difficult), and then walk back home on the Natchez Trace.