Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Rest of the Journey - RV Adventures Days 11-15

Finally finishing up our trip blog!

We left early Sunday morning and headed to St. Louis.  On our way, we had a tire blow-out.   The blowout caused damage to back fiberglass, then the tire guy messed up the side of the RV by placing the jack in the wrong place.  The blessing over that was that a storm was brewing in the distance, so we had a nice, cool breeze while waiting for the tire service.

We arrived in St. Louis a bit later than we first planned, but still had time to park, then get a taxi to the Arch.  We were happy we had thought to call ahead and make reservations.  The lines for tickets were long and the 7:00 time we had secured was sold out.

Ken and I woke early the next morning and decided to head on over about a half-hour to the Wal-Mart by Six Flags.  For the first time, we let the kids stay asleep in their beds while we drove.  I went grocery shopping while Ken and the kids rested.  Then we were at Six Flags for the opening.  Because of the storm that had passed through the night before, it wasn't too hot.  We had fun riding rides until about 2:00.

We made the 4-hour drive to Beagle Bay, which was a bit of a disappointment, but the owner was super nice, so that made up for the run-down condition of the property.

We were ready to hit the road early Tuesday morning, knowing we needed to stop to check on what seemed to be another messed-up tire.  We stopped in Joplin and two hours later, were back on the road with a new front tire.  We were happy to have met at the truck tire garage, a guy who could sign and helped us find a place that would change the tire for us.

However, after driving about an hour, we felt yet ANOTHER tire wobbling, so had to pull over in Tulsa to get a third and final tire replaced.  Not fun, but life goes on.  We had to change our plans a bit, but finally arrived in Choctaw in the early evening.

We had a fun visit with Grandma and Grandpa Brown.  The kids' cousin Emily spent the night, so the kids had a good time playing, swimming, taking bubble baths, chasing, and giggling.

Overall, and despite the tire problems and heat, we had a great time on our trip.  Ken and I agree that we prefer cruising over RV travel, though!  If we take an RV trip again, we would rent either a trailer or class A, travel less distance, and travel in cooler weather.  Our feelings about RV travel will also be colored depending on whether or not we get back our $500 deposit and $450 we spent on new tires.  Time will tell.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Days 8 - 10: NAD 2012 and Deaf Fest

Obviously, the remainder of the week was FULL and I ran out of time to blog. Here's the photo album from these days.

July 5th was Ken's birthdayt!  We got him a cake and card and gave him the gift of not spending any more money than that.  He loved it!  Our friend Chris joined us for dinner and cake to help us celebrate.  :)  The kids and I visited NAD for a while during the day, then Ken and Hannah went back to watch the College Bowl that evening.

Cool artistic horse.

Carol and Merv Garretson with the boys.

A key lime cake after dinner to celebrate Ken's birthday!

Friday morning, we decided to go across the street to Atlantis Waterpark.  It was a great way to spend the 105-degree day.  Travis wasn't a huge fan of the waterpark.  He does not enjoy the blinding sunlight nor getting his face wet, so after a couple of hours, we went back to the RV, picked up Ken from work, let him and the little boys nap while the rest of us went back to Atlantis.  The girls and I were ready to leave by 3:00, but TJ wanted to stay until closing at 6:00.  He had already made a friend, as usual, so Ken and I decided he would be okay there with his friend, lifeguards, and us just across the street.  He did an excellent job and was walking across the parking lot to the KOA when we went to pick him up at closing time.

Tian on the waterslide.

I spent the afternoon doing laundry, then that evening, the girls and I went to see the Miss Deaf America Pageant/Ambassador Program.  It was fun to attend and we enjoyed running in to a few Deaf celebrities!

John from Rathskellar

TL Forsberg

Saturday was DeafFest!  We stayed out there from about 11:30 a.m. until the final band played at 8:30 that night.  Ken worked hard while the kids and I enjoyed some of the entertainment such as Sean Forbes, Pinky Aiello, TL Forsberg, WaWa doing Dip Hop, and Beethoven's Nightmare.
Travis, applauding the entertainment.
We were thrilled to see Ken's Aunt Janice come by, too.

Ken and Aunt Janice using ZVRS!
 A major highlight of the conference was stopping to visit with Jack and Rosalyn Gannon.  You can read and see a little about them here and here.  As they took a few moments to visit with us and let us snap a few photos of them with the kids, I was overcome with emotion for a few reasons:  One is that I've always adored and admired Deaf Seniors.  Visiting with seniors reminds me of my college years and those who poured so much time and stories into my life.  I also think about all the Gannons and others in their generation have endured over the years such as oralism, audism, and oppression; yet they live with joy and success, giving so much of themselves to better the entire community.  Thirdly, Jack and Rosalyn themselves are icons in the Deaf Community.  Jack, who holds a PhD, has written some of the best books on Deaf History, including the classic Deaf Heritage and his new book about the World Federation of the Deaf.  You'll see him in documentaries such as Through Deaf Eyes and For a Deaf Son.  
The sweet Gannons!
 Seeing the Gannons' true love and care for our kids, both Deaf and hearing, just melted my heart and solidified the honor and respect I have for them.  They represent how I feel about the Deaf Community as a whole.  I love that THEY love our kids, no matter what's going on with their ears!  I hope to have the chance to meet them again.
This melts my heart!! I might just have it framed!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day Seven: Hanging Out in Louisville

The kids are loving the playground here at the KOA campsite.  They played for a while this morning, then we went across the bridge to a splash park.  Wet is the only way to survive outdoors right now.

The boys at the splash pad
On our way back to the RV, we swung by the skate park to check things out.  The photos online look amazing, but reality was quite different.  The skate park is evidently in a bad part of town.  Trash was everywhere.  Graffiti covering most places.  (Not the pretty graffiti, either.)  The place was completely abandoned, which I thought was strange for a holiday.  Our skate park would be packed.  Then we noticed two police cars in front of the park and realized they must have just cleared out the place.  We're not sure if we'll go back and skate or not!  It was pretty creepy.

Aunt Janice, Chris, Hal and the boy Brownies.
In the early afternoon, Ken got back from work and we headed over to his Aunt Janice's house.  They have a beautiful Victorian home just down the street from here.   I was happy to finally meet Janice, Vicki and their families!

After eating some delicious burgers and hot dogs, we headed back over to the RV.  Ken ran over to Wal-Mart, then went to bed, but the kids and I stayed up and found some locals setting off fireworks.  These people take their fireworks seriously!  Just about on every street, people were in front of their house setting off pretty big explosives.  It was fun to watch!
Check out today's photos here.

Ken with his Aunt Vicki and family, standing in front of
the gorgeous stained glass window

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Day Six: NAD 2012 Opening Ceremonies

We had a nice, slow morning.  Ken took the van to work, so the kids and stayed "home."  Because of some rain storms last night, the morning was relatively cool.  TJ, Kenzie, Tian, Travis and I went over to the playground, just a hundred steps away, to slide, teeter-totter, swing, and merry-go-round.  I love the playground here.  It's clean, well-kept, and all old-fashioned metal play equipment like I grew up with.  The slide is high, fast and fun!

The kids enjoyed their Lunchables (a rare treat for them).  When Ken got home around noon, Kenzie, TJ and I decided to try out the KOA showers.  They were clean, nice and safe.  They are single showers, each with a locked door.   When you go in, you can latch the door locked from the inside.  It felt good to shower and not have to worry about running out of warm water.

After hanging out and relaxing for a while, we packed into the van and drove to Slugger Stadium.  We got to see Sean Forbes preform a few songs, which was a real treat!  We enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner.  My portabello mushroom burger was delish!

The older three Brownies enjoyed watching their first baseball game.  TJ moved close to the Bats when they were warming up.  One of the players approached TJ and gave him a baseball!

After the game was into the 3rd inning, a young hearing woman approached us, asking if our boys were the ones on You Tube.  It was fun to visit with her.  Shortly after, a couple of Deaf college students came down to meet the boys.  They, too, recognized them from YouTube.   These girls were Korean and so excited to see the boys.  They invited the boys to be a part of the National Asian Deaf Congress when they get older.  I like that the boys get to meet many Deaf role models.  It's amazing to feel so much love and support from the community.  The Deaf community truly cares about these boys; it's heartwarming to witness. (More photos here)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day Five: China Reunion

Today was SO much fun! We went to visit the Mattingly family, who were in our travel group when we adopted Tian in Zhengzhou.  It was a treat to visit, play and do laundry!  :)

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Silly kids! (Instagram)

TJ had a great day hanging out with the guys.

Sweet Allie

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day Four: Arriving at Louisville!

Up with the sun this morning, I packed up as much as I could while everyone was still sleeping.  I wanted Ken to get as much rest as possible so he would feel better!  It worked!

We left the park around 8:00 am, took a few pictures and made our way up to Louisville.  The KOA park is nice, shady, and clean.  There is a great playground, clean bathrooms and showers, and it's an easy drive to all the places we're going.  We also just found out that Ken's aunt lives just around the corner!

Ken went to work at 1:00, so the kids and I set up at the RV park, then went out to explore and do some grocery shopping.  We had a great meal at Shake N Steak (kids meals free!), then stumbled on a HUGE Bass Pro Shop!  We killed an hour or so there, then decided to go on home so the boys could nap.  The grocery shopping would have to wait.

Click here to see the photos.

For dinner, we met the Z family at the Old Spaghetti Warehouse.  It was fun to see everyone and meet a few people I've only known through VP and Instagram.   While dining, we were treated to a huge rain and lightning storm!  It cooled things off by at least 15 degrees.  What a relief!

We got home late and went straight to bed.  Big day tomorrow!