Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Texas Trip!

So we went on a random vacation this winter.  It all started with the little email from Jet Blue advertising their cheap tickets, and I saw that plane tickets to Houston were $79. Each way, but still. Crazy! The family could fly for relatively cheap. It was January...and very cold...and I started thinking about all of the wonderful people we knew in that area that we could see.  Later that day, my friend Janet called me out of the blue.  I told her about the tickets, but hadn't talked to Scott. Later that night, when I presented my plan to Scott he was all for it! (While we love Boston, winter often calls for a little break!)  He had served his mission there and thought it would be fun to go back and visit.  So we bought the tickets and started planning our whirlwind vacation to visit Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  It was seriously so much fun. One of our best vacations ever. Random and crazy, but super fun and very needed.  We LOVED spending time with our wonderful friends, all of whom we consider like family, and Geoff, who of course is family. Here is the quick (or not so quick) recap!

The airport was near Scott's first mission area, so after we finally got the rental car situation worked out (they tried to give us a mini cooper!) we drove by his first apartment.
It looked like it had been destroyed by fire.  It was so sad!
We then drove by another one of his apartments.  Thankfully these ones were in a better state!
On our way to Austin, we toured the Bluebell factory!  It was a great tour and complete with a scoop of ice cream!
James had a major melt down during the eating ice cream segment, but the rest of us had a great time!
Even the goose!
At the Bluebell statue (as you can see we are still in our Massachusetts clothes!  Not quite prepared for how warm it was!)
We then went to my friend Lorena's house for a Texas dinner.  Complete with Texas shaped chips,
Delicious Texas BBQ,
Texas Jello jigglers,
And even awesome Texas cowboy outfits!  We stayed the night with them and it was so much fun!
We got to meet Lorena's little boy Nathan who is a few months older than Lucy.
She had hugs and mooches galore for him.
Old college roommates plus babies
Don't ask us about Austin.  Everyone does.  We really didn't experience it.  We experienced hours of traffic while moving a couple of miles.  And so we skipped downtown and just got on our way to Mississippi.  But we did experience Round Rock Donuts!  They had huge Texas-sized donuts and we also tried Kolaches, which were quite good! Then we drove and drove and drove and got to Jackson MS to Geoff's house late that night.  
The next day we headed out to Vicksburg and stopped by the Coke museum.  It was like the first bottling place for Coke?  Not sure.  It was less impressive than we had imagined.
These planes were pretty cool though.
We then had a fun picnic lunch on the bank of the Mississippi by this old railroad depot.
The boys loved climbing on the train and throwing rocks in the Mississippi.  It was listed as one of their highlights of the trip! 
And the next several shots are from Vicksburg.  The battlefield there was huge!  It was a really cool place.  We should have left it some more time.  We pretty much just drove through it after watching the video.

We did get out and explore the USS Cairo.  It was an awesome gunboat that was sunk during the Civil War and lifted out of the bottom of the river like 100 years later.
It was pretty cool
These boys loved it!
We drove by thousands and thousands of graves.  These are some of the Union's, I believe.
Obligatory cannons.
We loved feeling of the spirit and history Vicksburg.  It was hallowed ground that was both beautiful and very sad at the same time.  We could have spent all day there.  But our kids probably couldn't. We'll give 'em 25 years. :)
The next day we spent around Jackson.  We had a lot of fun at this reservoir right by Geoff's apartment.
Flying kites, feeding ducks, etc.
Then we ate a great meal at this restaurant.  I wish we had a picture of the food.  Your only choices for the meal were fried catfish or fried chicken.  Then we had a million sides of things like fried okra, hush puppies, fried cornbread, fried pickles... fried everything.  It was so good.
We then went to the Museum of Natural History there in Jackson.  The kids loved it.
After the museum we drove down towards New Orleans and stayed in a hotel that night.  Geoff was a trooper and somehow put up with an evening in the same hotel room as all of us!  What an adventure!
The next day we drove over the longest bridge ever (23.9 miles) and after some searching came to this huge city park in New Orleans.
Of course, the boys just wanted to play mini golf.  So we did. New Orleans style. :)

Complete with spanish moss.
After this we said goodbye to Uncle Geoff and ate lunch at this awesome 50's diner where the servers were as impressive as the meal itself.  It was really fun and these boys were laughing the whole time.
After that we drove through Louisiana.  We didn't leave enough time for the alligators.  We got to see these ones, but it was already closed for petting.
And by the time we got to the alligator walk that Scott wanted to show us it was dark. :(  It was kind of sad. My only regret of the trip.
Scott's apartment in Sulphur, Louisiana.
We got into Houston late that Saturday night and stayed the rest of the time at my friend Janet's house.  I don't know why we don' t have any pictures from Sunday, but oh well.  We had decided to go to the branch that Scott had first served in when he was in Sunnyside.  They had met in an old frat house that was turned into an institute building.  But when we drove up, he was shocked to see a new LDS meetinghouse in its place! It was branch conference and at first he only saw people from the stake and wondered what had happened to the branch that he had served in! But by the end of the day he had met several people who he knew and found out the whereabouts of some others. He was especially encouraged to see a young adult woman whom he had known as a girl that had been able to stay close to the church despite the tough surroundings.

We then drove out to see my friend Jess. I was also good friends with her husband Craig, who had passed away very suddenly less than six months before. We went to his grave and it was so good to be able to spend some time with her and grieve together. Jess and Craig are two of the very best people that I know and she is so strong as she is dealing with this loss. We went back to their apartment and got to see her sister Camille as well.  It was great to spend time with such a wonderful friend.  We laughed and cried together, as we have done together for years in the past.  I truly admire her and miss Craig.
Craig's grave
The rest of our trip was spent with the Tobler family.  They are the most hospitable people ever and I've always felt at home in their house, from my very first visit when they moved here to Boston.  Our kids had a blast together as well!
Dressing up!
And since it was in town, we had to experience the Houston Rodeo!!!  
The kids dressed up for the occasion!

They had an awesome petting zoo.  Kangaroos and all!

And they loved riding the horses.

They had this super fun "farm" where you planted seeds and harvested vegetables.

You also got to play in the "corn box"
And milk cows, etc, to earn some "money" and buy a treat at the end.  It was super fun for the kids.
Family photo complete with goats!
But the best part of the Rodeo was the tractor pull!
Both Violet and Alan competed in the event, and had a blast.  The announcer was great and they cheered each other on so much.  It was really cute.  I'll have to put up the video.
Alan made it to the third round.  Here he is giving it his all!
And they somehow managed a couple of rides from their cheap parents.
And absolutely loved it!
And though she was in on less of the action, Lucy had a lot of fun as well.
Lucia and James heading home from the rodeo
Here is the attempt to get a picture of all the kids together the night before we left. :)  Not too bad, considering there are  6 pretty wriggly kids!
On our way to the airport we stopped at Jimmy Changa's.  It was an awesome mexican restaurant complete with both cloth napkins and a kid playground.
Benecio was having fun playing with Lucy.

 And everyone gets an ice cream cone at the end too!  A perfect way to end the trip.
The kids did really great on the trip.  There was a lot of driving, but they were really, really good.  And they were great on the airplane. In fact, for the majority of the flights they sat by themselves on the other side of the airplane and Scott and I got to sit together too (with Lucy of course.) It was great. We listened to the Frozen soundtrack about a million times during our driving around and it was playing as the movie on our airplane home. Who could have asked for anything better as we headed back to snowy Massachusetts?  Not these boys. And though everyone was so good and we had so much fun, this little boy came in the house and found his blue ball blankie and just gave it a big hug.  It was nice to come home too!