The Wichita Mountains

When Kevin was about Katelynn’s age, his dad was stationed as a soldier in Fort Sill by Lawton, Oklahoma. Since the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is lining up with Fort Sill, my parents-in-law took their three boys and went camping and/or hiking in the mountains for the weekends.

Many years later, Kevin always talked about going back hiking in the Wichita Mountains. At the Labor Day weekend in 2014, I said: “Okay, the girls are big enough. Let’s pack the camping gear and give it a shot!” At that time, we didn’t know it would become a Labor Day weekend tradition in our family.

Well, this year we arrived at the campground a little bit too late. Since the campground takes only ‘First come – first serve’ in, and they don’t do reservations for single families, we didn’t get to camp. The campground was overflowing with guests. Maybe it was good that way. When a place is too crowded, we can’t really relax and enjoy our weekend getaway, either.

But since we were here already, we used the chance to hike for a couple of hours. We went up to Mount Scott to enjoy the beautiful scenery from above. And we went to the Jed Johnson Dam and the Quanah Parker Lake Dam to exercise the dogs for a little bit. After all, we’ve got out of the house and enjoyed the day as a family. Can’t ask for more, right? 😉

When we came home and unpacked the car, it didn’t take long for us to pass out on our beds. And today, we can enjoy all the goodies we packed for the trip. We are still considering, if we put up the tent, grill some hotdogs and marshmallows over the campfire, and listen to daddy’s spooky ghost stories, in the backyard tonight.

NOTE: Original posted in “The Barefoot Garden Fairy” on September 4, 2016

Travel Journal, Days 7 – 9: Taking It Easy On The Way Back Home To Texas

June 21 – 23, 2017

Before we made it home to Texas, we relaxed in North Carolina. We visited Kevin’s parents for a full day. It gave us the opportunity to wash some clothes, sit on the couch, and tell the family about our adventures we had up north. Katelynn and Sara played with their cousin in the backyard. After sitting in the car for that long, it was great for them to run and get the wiggles out of their system.

The following morning, we packed, had a last breakfast with the in-laws in Morganton, and hit towards Texas. That day, we managed to make it all the way to Little Rock. We were done with the I-40 stretch, and had only the I-30 portion to Dallas left. The motel room looked fancy. And I really liked the firm mattress. Kevin and I looked for the tag, the next morning. I wrote down the brand and style. When it is time to retire our mattress, I have to shop and see if I find a mattress like the one in the motel. 😀

It was Friday morning. Being in Benton, Arkansas, we had less than 300 miles left. It was a relief, we were that close. The road was easy to drive. Usually rush hour seems to be all day on Friday. It might be only a DFW Metroplex thing. At about 1 p.m. Kevin drove the van in our driveway. Our house had us back. The pets were so happy to see us, again. And the garden had whole lot more sunflowers. The neighbor’s daughter took care of our pets and the garden, while we were out of town. She came over to bring the keys back, after work. 🙂

After technically exact 8 days, driving through 15 states, and 3752 more miles on the tachometer, it was a great feeling to be back home. The girls saw five more states; I saw four more states; and Kevin? He lost counting after traveling so much as a child. I’m sure he traveled a few more states than we did. 😉 Life is good! And we have a lot of more conversation material for the future. I’m planning already the next NYC-trip in my head. 😉

~ The End ~

5K-Runs, Independence Day-Parade and Fireworks

Rain, lightning, thunder … all night long. Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I had a tough time to sleep. The night was over at 6 am, because we planned to got to the Liberty 5K Run in Stewart Creek Park at Lewisville Lake. The event wasn’t cancelled, and we got out of the house by 7 am.

At the parking lot we met our friends. And we all walked into the park together. We still had plenty of time, before the race started. Kevin and Sara stretched a little bit more. But Katelynn thought, she was fine. Later she said, it was a mistake. Her calves started to cramp, when she was running. Usually, she does the 5K under 40 minutes. This time, it took her almost an hour to reach the finish line. When Katelynn ate her yogurt, she said she should have stretched more. Lesson learned. Kevin came in at 36 minutes. And Sara was crossing the finish line at around 50 minutes. It was all for the fun of running for the girls. For Kevin it is more like an extra run to stay in shape for the Half-Marathon in October.

Once we all ate our snacks and drank some water, we walked back to the car. The Independence Day Parade supposed to begin at 10 am. And we still had 45 minutes to line up. Since it was sprinkling, a lot of people didn’t go to the parade. Kevin could park the van backwarts into the parking space. If the sky had opened more, at least we could have sit in the back of the van to stay try. But a little bit of sprinkling doesn’t keep us from cheering on the parade. This year’s theme was “Superheroes”. It was no surprise, that “Wonder Woman” was the Grand Marshal of the parade. Police vehicles, fire trucks, business trailers, churches, boy scouts, girl scouts, the City Council, and more lined up to greet and wish us a “Happy 4th of July”. Our town’s parades might be not the biggest and longest. But it is always enjoyable to get out and see people preparing for events in our community.

The sky cleared, and it turned out to be a nice evening. After dinner, we went to the “Liberty By The Lake” event, which was also in Stewart Creek Park. The “Tin Man Band” was live on stage, when we arrived and set up for watching the fireworks. The sunset was stunning at the lake. I haven’t watched it at the lake in a while. And it was a refreshing sight. The boats where lined up to see the fireworks on the lake. When it got darker, we could see all the lights from the boats out in the water.

When the fireworks started, I’ve noticed my camera battery was as good as dead. And I forgot to bring my charged battery. Oh well, there are more fireworks in the upcoming few days. Kevin, the girls and I shared a wonderful evening together. And that was much more important. ❤

Travel Journal, Day 6: From New Jersey To Philadelphia, And Back To The South

June 20, 2017

Tuesday morning, we left New Jersey. Surprisingly traffic was not very heavy. And we got out of the thickest in a decent time. When we went to a gas station, Kevin got a little surprised. In New Jersey, you don’t pump your gas yourself. It’s illegal in this state, and a gas station operator will do it for you. The windows got washed with no extra costs, in the meantime. But the gas is a little bit more expensive, because of the service. Kevin made a short comment to me: “Hehe, we need this in every state.”

Our plan was to make it to North Carolina by the evening. But first, we had to go and see another historic symbol of the United States of America. Leaving New Jersey, we entered Pennsylvania to get to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia we parked in the park house of the Independence Visitor Center. We had 30 Minutes to walk to Liberty Bell and come back to the car. And somehow, we did it. It wasn’t too busy in the Independence National Historical Park and in the building. Therefore, I could capture pictures in a decent time. And we got out of Philly fairly quick.

After Philadelphia, we reached Delaware (State #33). Being on I-95 it is not a wise idea to blink, or you’ll miss the State of Delaware. … LOL We stopped at a rest area to get a bite to eat. I loved, that they served a mix of German/American style sandwiches. The Turkey-Brie-Apple Ciabatta-Sandwich I had for lunch was very delicious. The lady at the counter warmed it for a minute, which made the cheese melt a little bit. I also had a Danish as a dessert. It was good, very good! Half of the sandwich, I kept for later on the road. Because it was very filling.

As soon as we passed Baltimore, Maryland, we decided to go on a different road. Since we’ve been in Washington, D.C. back in 2015, we could avoid the country’s capital traffic and make our way faster into Virginia. In Virginia everything goes in a slower pace. It was relaxing after the faster pace, we’ve experienced the days before. The landscape is stunning. We always enjoy driving through the Appalachian Mountains. Up and down the hills we went. People start to greet ya more often at the gas stations and rest areas. It’s a sign of being back in the South. ❤ At another rest area, we stopped a little bit longer. Katelynn and Sara needed to run and chase each other, playing tag and get some fresh air. Down the hill, I discovered some berries. And Katelynn found a centipede crawling in the grass. I let her watch it, but told her not to touch it. Katelynn loves all kinds of bugs. And sometimes, I have to remind her, it’s not a good thing to touch every creepy-crawly.

After refilling the little cooler with water and juices, we were back on the road. It felt so good to see the North Carolina state sign. It meant, we were not too far from our Tuesday’s destination anymore. Kevin got some bread, lunch meat, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers. This was dinner at the motel for that evening. Kevin called his parents to let them know, we had arrived in town. We would meet for breakfast the next morning.

… to be continued …

Travel Journal, Day 5 (Part III): ♫ New York, New York ♫

June 19, 2017

Ferries entered and left the dock very quickly. Once our ferry entered, it was our turn to get in the boat. Another rainstorm hit the bay, and the waves on the Hudson River were high. Katelynn felt a knot in her tummy and wasn’t sure, if she’ll keep her shrimp soup down. Sara thought, that ride on the river was fun. She really enjoyed these high waves. Arriving at Liberty State Park Landing, we let other passengers pass by to get to their cars in the parking lot. Katelynn took a couple of deep breaths, and her face gained its normal color, again. In the meantime, I’ve noticed something: “That’s how it works!”, I said to Kevin. “People are parking here in New Jersey, and then take the ferry to go to work or have fun in Manhattan. … Cool!”

It was still raining. But the clouds seemed to clear in the west. We saw the “Liberty House” and wanted to see, if we can stand under something to stay out of the rain. At the Liberty House were some patio chairs covered by an awning. The restaurant seemed to be closed. If somebody had shown up, I doubt they minded us sitting there to wait out the rain. The sun peaked through some clouds, before it was setting. I enjoyed the warm rays touching my face, when it popped in my head: “OMGosh, the sun is shining in the west. And it still rains in the east. Do you know what that means???!!” I ran south past the Liberty House, because it blinded my view to Manhattan. Kevin, Katelynn and Sara followed me with quick steps through the puddles. And there it was: a double rainbow sat over the skyline. The rainbow started behind One World Trade Center and where once the Twin Towers used to be. And it stretched all the way to the bay. Oh my, it was breath-taking! How lucky we were to witness this event, Mother Nature provided for us at that evening. It’s something, not every tourist gets to see. And we will cherish this moment for a very long time.

613

This was a very spiritual occurrence, we had in New Jersey looking over to Manhattan, New York. We’ve got rained out. But Mother Nature let us witness a beautiful moment.

And here are some photos of New York City and Jersey City. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy! 🙂

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New York, New York

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it, New York, New York
These vagabond shoes are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap

These little town blues are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you , New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m A-number-one, top of the list,
King of the hill, A-number-one

These little town blues are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it in old New York
A-a-a-nd if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York

Written by Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Leonard Bernstein • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

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… to be continued …

Travel Journal, Day 5 (Part II): At The Hudson River In New York City, New York

June 19, 2017

Despite the rain, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I did a little bit of sight-seeing in New York City. Personally, I prefer this weather over a hot and muggy day. And life still seemed to move on: We saw a lady walking a dog, a gentleman sprinting, and some people on bikes riding along the Battery Park City Esplanade. They didn’t seem to mind at all, that water came from the sky.

But before I can continue about river, I need to go back the PATH-Station first. Kevin looked at a map on his phone, before we decided to take a step outside. When Kevin had it mapped out, we past the memorial and walked down to West Street. I’ve noticed a lot of men in Gucci and Armani suits. And these people smelled so good. Making our way into Vesey Street, the clouds didn’t look very promising. We walked for shelter into the mall area of Three World Financial Center. Since the hot dog was holding us over only for so long, we used the time to make plans for dinner. “Let’s see what we can find along the river, once it stops raining again,” I suggested. Kevin agreed, while Sara looked up to the glass roof and said: “Look at this rain! So much rain!” She seemed annoyed a little bit. It was no fun for her to sit around and wait for it to stop. Katelynn replied: “Oh well!”

Finally we had a little break, we began to walk along the Battery Park City Esplanade. It didn’t take long, before we stumbled over this little seafood place named “Merchants River House”. We looked at the menu card posted outside, which sounded very good. Hmm, it made our mouth watery. “Let’s take a look!” Kevin suggested. We walked in, and I loved the view over the river. Seeing the Liberty Statue in the distance while having a good seafood dinner, made it very special. Katelynn considered “The Soup of the Day”. She asked the waitress, what was today’s special. The waitress replied, it was shrimp & clam soup. Katelynn was in heaven. She loves shrimps. And this would be a perfect meal for her. Kevin had a burger; Sara was excited, she had pizza for dinner; and I loved the “Vermicelli Pasta”, which is angel hair pasta, manila clams cooked in a garlic Chardonnay sauce. Sooo good! Since we enjoyed our dinner so much, we ordered some desserts as well. Kevin and the girls had chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and I went for the “Caramelized Banana Cheese Cake”. Sometimes we have to splurge, right? 😉

After we paid for our dinner, we decided to walk back to the mall of Three World Financial Center. It made no sense to walk all the way down the esplanade to get a closer look at Ms. Liberty. Kevin took the girls with him to look at some stores for a couple of souvenirs, and I just took that moment to sit for a little rest on the bench. When they came back, they had some fancy chocolate from a French place in tow. I suggested we could take the ferry across the Hudson River. It was getting darker. And this would be a good opportunity to get some great photos of Manhattan. Kevin said, he was thinking the same about the ferry. They seemed to be fast and would bring us directly to the landing, where we wanted to be. Said, done! We walked down to the World Financial Center dock to take the fairy to the Liberty State Park Landing. While waiting for the ferry, we’ve learned, lots of people park in New Jersey and take the fairy to go to work or take care of other businesses in the city. More about crossing the Hudson River will follow, tomorrow.

 … to be continued …