Miles Traveled: 3,672
States Visited: 11 – Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia
Water Bottles Lost: 1
8/7/19 – Day 4:
After a somewhat relaxing night in Dallas (try sleeping with an energetic 4-year-old on a sofa bed mattress and then tell me how you feel) we went west towards Louisiana. Our first stop to stretch our legs was the riverfront park in Shreveport.
We almost melted but we saw a water snake!
At this point in the trip, Johnny’s war with socks was at full tilt. He hates socks and refused to put them on most places we went. He wore these flip flops and ended up scraping his toe pretty badly here at the park. It was REALLY hard not to say “I told you so” but I held my tongue.
Outside the science museum, Johnny and George had fun trying to lift an engine.
George engaged in his favorite past time: throwing rocks into water. He had a great time.
We made sure to stop in the Spring Street Local History Museum. George relaxed with a fancy lady.
After our muggy walk, we headed to the other side of the river to Beaux Jax Crafthouse in Bossier City. I had a blackened catfish po’boy and a much needed beer. Both hit the spot.
After lunch, we drove for 6 hours. 😳George Washington the Moray Eel did drive a little bit to give Cliff a break.
While we were driving, I researched where we should stay. I searched for “Haunted New Orleans Hotels” and found a place on Bourbon Street called LaFitte’s Guest House. While we didn’t get the bedroom that is haunted, we got the larger one above it on the third floor. The hotel was OLD and slightly slanted inside. Our room had two bedrooms, one bath, and a fabulous balcony overlooking Bourbon Street.
It was my favorite hotel of the whole trip and we will be going back. Right across the street was the famous LaFitte Blacksmith Shop that is now a hot nightspot. Despite our proximity to it, we couldn’t hear any partying from our rooms.
After we got settled in our room, we walked down to Decatur Street and had dinner while enjoying live jazz at the Market Cafe.
Johnny was having trouble brushing off the hours in the van but pretty soon we all relaxed.
After dinner we took a walk down Decatur and George posed without prompting (I swear he did this himself!)
We got back to the hotel to put the boys to bed and Cliff and I went for a walk down Bourbon Street (Bamma stayed behind.) It was a loud assault on all of the senses but it was fun. I wasn’t prepared for how bad New Orleans smelled and had to dodge quite a few piles of vomit on the street. My favorite part of the walk was getting a shark attack.
8/8/19 – Day 5:
After a good night’s sleep (no ghosts) we headed to the Cafe Du Monde for the famous beignets.
After a sweet breakfast, we walked through the French Quarter towards Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.
It was about 99 degrees and the dew point was in the 70s. Both kids were miserable but we finally made it.
The cemetery has been closed to the public since 2015 due to vandalism and the only way you can walk through it is with a tour guide. We normally don’t do tours but I really wanted to learn about the famous cemeteries of New Orleans. Our tour guide, Mike told us many facts and legends about this cemetery. This tomb houses the remains of famous voodoo queen, Marie Laveau.
Mike told us that when someone dies, they are placed in the tombs on the outer walls of the cemetery (see the picture with Johnny sitting on the ground.) After the body has been in one of these tombs for one year and a day, it is removed and the bones are crushed. The remains are then added to the family tomb. Marie Laveau’s tomb houses 84 bodies!
This is the Italian family tomb and it houses over 1,000!
All of the tombs that were standing had purchased perpetual care. The ones who’s owners didn’t, have decayed away to nothing.
This one is a tomb that Nicholas Cage built for himself, if he ever dies.
After our morning in New Orleans, we piled back in the van and headed north. After two hours of driving, we were all tired of being cooped up so we got off a random exit in Mississippi. We drove down streets lined with abandoned houses much like what you might see in some Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The area had apparently seen better days. We parked near an Amtrak station and crossed the RR tracks to walk around an historic town called Laurel, Mississippi.
The difference between the sides of the tracks was mind boggling. On the other side, there were cute little boutiques, diners, a candy store, and even a fully stocked toy store.
We went in and the boys each got something small. As we were checking out the clerk asked us in the most charming southern accent I’d heard so far if we’d seen them on the show?
Blank stares from us. “What show?”
“Oh, you know, Hometown on HGTV.”
“Nope, never heard of it.”
“Oh my! You mean you came all the way to our little town and you don’t even watch the show?! Wow! I’ll have to tell my friend about this!”
I have never seen the show and probably won’t watch it but the town is cute. I wonder if they ever show what is on the other side of the tracks…
After our strange visit in Laurel, we went further north towards Birmingham, AL. I don’t have any pictures of Birmingham but I did learn that it is known as the Pittsburgh of the South. So you can guess what it looks like by walking downtown in our lovely burgh.
After dinner at Trattoria Zaza, we headed north some more towards Knoxville. At one point we found ourselves in Georgia, quite unexpectedly but only for a little while. We got a hotel on the outskirts so that we could easily hit our next destination…
8/9/19 – Day 6:
I woke up a bit more refreshed this morning because I got to sleep by myself! Granted, it was on a sofa bed, but at least there were no phantom 4-year-old fists punching me in the face at 3AM. We departed our hotel and drove for about an hour southeast towards Gatlinburg.
None of us had ever been before and didn’t quite know what to expect. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are like a mini Las Vegas, minus the casinos. They also resemble Myrtle Beach if instead of the ocean, there sit the Smoky Mountains. What I am trying to say is that the area is one huge TOURIST TRAP. Definitely not our scene.
King Kong climbs a skyscraper across from 2 ziplining courses that span 3 mini-golf courses. There are at least three Ripley’s Believe it or Not and countless dinner murder mystery shows. PIRATES! THE HATFIELD AND MCCOY DINNER FEUD. Dollywood is also nearby as Pigeon Forge was her hometown.
All of these sights bombard the eyeballs as you’re driving down the main road called “Parkway.” We passed all of them except for one store that caught Cliff’s eye: Golf n’ Guns. He had to stop in to see what the deal was and the purveyor said most people stop in for the same reason.
The reason that we went to Gatlinburg was to walk across the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.
The Gatlinburg Sky Bridge just opened this year and it is definitely worth the trip. Johnny saw the lift carrying people up the mountain and noped out of it.
Bamma stayed behind with him and so it was just Cliff, George and I.
We were HIGH and while I was trying no to let the panic take over, George was having a great time.
There were a few traffic jams on the bridge as we walked across it and we wondered why until we got to this:
The ride down was surprisingly more terrifying!
After our adrenaline packed ride, we had lunch and walked through the main drag of Gatlinburg. The kids loved it but we couldn’t wait to get out of there.
We got back to the van and headed north. WAY north to Cincinnati. On the final night of our trip, we stayed in the Westin which had a rooftop pool.
After dinner, Cliff and I walked across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. This bridge was designed by the same architect who designed the Brooklyn Bridge and one of the only canal bridges known as the Allegheny Aqueduct that used to run over the Allegheny River near the current 579 bridge.
8/10/19 – Day 6:
The next morning, we drove about 3 and half hours to Hocking Hills State Park which is south of Columbus, OH. If you go, make sure you download your Google Maps for offline use before you go. There is absolutely no cell phone service. We’d heard from a friend that the caves and cliffs were worth exploring. They were right along with about a thousand other people. We pulled up to the Old Man’s Cave parking lot and had to park on the street. We thought that there must be some event bringing so many people to this remote area of Ohio but it turns out it’s like that every nice weekend. Getting to the caves required a little bit of hiking but it was definitely doable for everyone in our party. Johnny refused to wear socks and surprisingly navigated pretty well in his flip flops.
After our hike through the caves, we got back in the car to see the Cantwell Cliffs. We had no access to our Google Maps so we had to navigate following the road signs. We got lost a few times but eventually found our way.
Bamma refused to go down into the ravines but we coaxed her into being brave.
As we were navigating the steep outcrops of rocks I realized I needed both hands. I figured I could toss my water bottle down to the trail below while I maneuvered myself. I let it go thinking it would land and wait for me. Nope. It bounced and flew into a ravine.
There it is!
I was more concerned about littering than losing my bottle but there was no way to get it. Sorry Mother Nature!
This picture shows just how high up we were using a woman below for scale.
Throughout the park there were stairs and footbridges that spanned creeks that turned into high waterfalls.
This couple were much braver than we were!
There are many more pictures of the entire trip including Hocking Hills over at Google Photos.
After Hocking Hills, we headed home to unpack and relax after such a whirlwind vacation. Until next summer!