Category Archives: Trips

3rd Time Is Definitely a Charm

Day 2 of the vacay and I was able to spend some time at one of my favorite spots – the Biltmore Estate. This day also happened to be my birthday. 🙂

After departing from Billie’s Monday night, we got back on the road and headed over to Asheville. I debated whether to take Kaleya there; I was not sure if she would appreciate it. But, she loves flowers and they have a great garden. And, I thought she may get into the opulence of the house. So.. off we went! This was my 3rd visit to the estate – I’ve gone before with Kelli. My last time there was in 2004, when I was pregnant with Kaleya. So much has changed since then. Upon arrival, they now have a center where tickets are purchased, and parking is no longer on the same plaza as the house – there are several lots and you can take a shuttle over. Fancy. 🙂 But, how can you NOT love this house!

Biltmore Estate

As I imagined, the house was spectacular. There were additional rooms open this time that I’d not seen before. I also did not do the audio tour as I already know plenty about the house. Instead, I focused on describing everything for Kaleya. I wasn’t able to clearly explain the relationship between the house and Vanderbilt University (where I work), but that’s okay. 🙂

One of my favorite places in the house is the Loggia – a patio on the entry floor with the most AMAZING views.

Kaleya on the loggia
view from the loggia
on the side terrace

After touring the house we went down to the gardens. Unfortunately, Kaleya was highly concerned about the bees to really enjoy it. You can see the trepidation all over her face.

in the walled garden
the walled garden

All in all, we have a great visit.

After Biltmore, I hopped back on the highway and went to visit another genealogy buddy – my friend Lorraine. She has roots in Plymouth, NC – same area as my maternal grandmother. I loved hanging out with her and her family! Her daughter even made me a birthday cake! After dinner, we chatted a bit more and then I had to head on home to my father’s house in Greensboro.

dinner w/ Lorraine’s family
we wait for the birthday cake
Lorraine and I

Thanks Lorraine for the hospitality! What a great way to spend my birthday.

By the end of the day, we traveled 214 miles.

distance traveled

The rest of the pictures from this day are here.

Visit to Blount County

Monday July 8th was the 1st day of my two-week vacation and I chose to start it off with a visit to Cades Cove, TN.  (note – some pics are below, but you can find all my pics from this day here.)

For the past 5 years, I have been the county coordinator for Blount County as part of the TNGenWeb Project, but I’ve never been there.  I have learned a lot about the history of the area from my work through TNGenWeb in helping others, but it was a wonderful experience to actually BE there and see the places and names that I have become familiar with.  Cades Cove in particular has been of interest to me – it is an isolated valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I have seen gorgeous pictures of the views there.

driving towards Cades Cove.
view in Cades Cove

Seeing the Cove involves an 11-mile loop road and it was neat to travel along it. We spent about two hours driving through and seeing it, but could have easily spent a whole day.  There is much to see, trails to follow, etc. To help with learning even more, I downloaded an audio tour that was quite entertaining. Our first stop in the Cove was John Oliver’s cabin. 

John Oliver cabin
view from John Oliver cabin


One of the stops we did get out of the car for was the Primitive Baptist Church.  Buried here is John Oliver and his family – they were the first European settlers to the area. Also buried in this cemetery are some distant relatives of one of my co-workers, the Shields family.  I recognized so many names so it was just cool to actually be there where they were.

Primitive Baptist Church
Kaleya in the church
John Oliver & Lurana Frazier Oliver. Buried at Primitive Baptist Church

We saw horses in the cove and Kaleya went bezerk – she loves horses. Seeing them run across the valley was amazing.

Kaleya w/ some horses

Here is a video she took while I was driving.

After our visit to the cove, I then headed to my friend Billie’s house. To get there from the Cove, we went through Pigeon Forge. Can I just say who knew TN had a Vegas-strip? That place was crazy! But, I know I’m gonna have to do the touristy-thing and take the kids there for a weekend. With places like MagiQuest, a Titanic museum, a Hollywood Wax Museum with a big King Kong on top, and a Hatfield & McCoys dinner theater, who can resist? Besides, I’ve already promised Kaleya. 🙂

MagiQuest in Pigeon Forge
Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge

We made it to Billie’s (one of my genealogy buddies) and settled in for the night. Billie was definitely the “hostess with the most-ess”. Kaleya was treated to a food in bed. How do I top that?  Then, Billie set us on our way Tuesday morning with a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits with her very own homeade apple butter, and some Benton’s bacon – a Monroe County original.  I don’t each much bacon but that was some good stuff!!!

Kaleya gets treated royally.

In all, we covered about 180 miles on Monday according to Google Latitude. You can even see a loop where we were going around the Cove (the placement on the map isn’t quite right, but Google does know I did a loop). Neat.  🙂

180+ miles covered in one day!

Visit to Mammoth Caves, KY

The last week of January I was able to take time off work for a staycation and what a great week it was indeed! On the last day of my “staycay”, Kelli and I took the kids up to Mammoth Caves. It it near Nashville and only took about an hour and a half to get there.

Prior to going, I spent quite a bit of time checking out the website and trying to figure out which of the tours to take. With multiple factors going into the decision, I decided that we would do the Frozen Niagra Tour.

We arrived at the park at about 10:30 or so if I recall correctly.  Because we visited during off-season, they were not offering the tours as frequently as they do in other parts of the year, but there was an option for the Frozen Niagra Tour at 3pm so we had some time to kill. We started by checking out the Heritage Trail, a trail that begins just behind the Visitor’s Center. Mind you it was cold out – about 20 degrees that day, so we only did about half of the trail.  I wanted to be sure we got to the Old Guide’s Cemetery where Stephen Bishop, a slave cemetery on the grounds.

slave cemetery

We then went inside to see the exhibit in the Visitor’s Center. It was very well done and we learned some interesting facts about the cave. There was also a cave hole in the exhibit that the kids enjoyed. Doesn’t Kaleya look just like Kelli here?

We then drove around the grounds some before heading out for lunch.  After lunch, we came back and it was time for our tour. The Frozen Niagra Tour begins from a man-made entrance to the caves. To get there, we hopped on a bus for the short ride (a few miles).  While the Frozen Niagra is the shortest tour, it is also the “prettiest” part of the 400+ mile cave system and the only part that has formations. The tour was about 90 minutes and it was cool. Dark, wet and creepy about sums it up.

looking out on the grounds
cave formations
Miles & Kaleya in front of another cave formation

On the way out of the cave we saw cave crickets – even creepier!

cave crickets – not cool.

After the tour, we then decided to walk down to the “Historic Entrance” of the cave – the original entrance to the cave. The kids had fun exploring the ravine along the way and it was cool to see that part.

kids exploring. kinda look like “hobbitses” don’t they!
the Historic Entrance


The rest of our photos are here if interested. It was a great day – thanks National Park Service for a great visit!

Kaleya waves goodbye

How We Spent Our Anniversary

Well, here’s a belated post! But, I have to do it b/c I wanted to chronicle how Kalonji and I spent our 11th anniversary. Our anniversary is New Year’s Eve and we were fortunate to be able to steal away for two days and spend the weekend in Louisville – without any of the kids. I can’t recall the last time we were sans kids for any significant period of time. 🙂

We went to Louisville to meet up with an old friend of Kalonji’s and just hang out around town. We were there from Saturday the 29th – Monday the 31st. Our hotel was right on the Ohio River – on the Jeffersonville side. We stayed at the Sheraton. Here’s a pic from the hotel website.

Our room was nice – see example below. We didn’t have a King, but rather two Queens, so that we could have a better view.

We arrived Saturday night, so that didn’t leave us room to do much, but we did have a late dinner with Kalonji’s friend Dave and his family. Kalonji and Dave went to high school together at Jeffersonville High School, where Kalonji went for his junior & senior years. They had not seen each other since graduation day, 1990 – 22 years ago! It was so great to meet them! I could tell why Kalonji and Dave got along in high school – their tastes and outlook to life are so similar. Dave was even able to scan in a picture he had of Kalonji in high school – classic!

Sunday morning Kalonji and I had brunch at the hotel restaurant, where we had a gorgeous view of the river.

Then, we wandered around Louisville some, spending time on Bardstown Road – a great strip of businesses, etc.

We then had dinner again with Dave and family and spent Monday doing a little shopping before heading back to Evansville. What a great weekend. And, we even managed to get a picture of Kalonji and his brother, and all the kids – a great way to bring in the new year!

Saturday Outing: The Symphony & Cheekwood

Today, we did another Nashville first – our first visit to the Nashville Symphony.  For this I need to greatly thank my co-worker Frances who used her ticket credits to purchase the tickets for us to go see the Pied Piper.

inside the Symphony Hall

…but I have a confession to make – I actually did not know the full story of the Pied Piper, only knew bits and pieces.  So I didn’t know what to expect. But it was great! The conductor began the show by describing the plot, then having the orchestra play music representative of the different characters in the story so that we’d know when the characters were involved during the musical performance. I think our favorite “character” was the music for the rats; it was very appropriate.  On top of that, they had a performance group on stage acting out the story and the conductor continued to provide explanation.  I think all the kids and adults alike enjoyed it – I know our family did! 🙂

Kaleya poses outside after the show is over

After the symphony, we then headed out to Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. This was my second visit there, my first one having been back in September.  This time, our visit was free as Kaleya’s school was having a Family Fun Day and we could enter at no charge.

When I went in the fall, it was Kaleya and I, so I’d been wanting to take the boys to visit – this was the perfect opportunity.  We arrived at about 1:30 and spent the next couple of hours walking the grounds, playing around the ponds, and going through the museum.

by the pond
turtle peeks his head out
Miles and Jihad exploring the pond
the kids in front of the house
Miles did not really drink the water!

The exhibits in the museum changed since my last visit and one I particularly enjoyed was the Red Grooms exhibit. We have some of his artwork displayed in the library where I work – the Eskind Biomedical Library at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. My favorite piece was cool, and I didn’t even get the name of it. You can see it at about 1:20 into the video below about Red Grooms and his wife.  Red is a Nashville native so I really should make more of an effort to learn about his artwork.

In all, we had a great day today! Tomorrow, I look forward to staying in and relaxing though. 🙂