Saturday, April 11, 2015

Our Trip To Tennessee

With the coming of Spring, there is the return of having to spring forward with our clocks, the return of pollen, and, the only one I enjoy, Spring Break for the kids from school. This year we decided to go to Tennessee to visit my wife's Aunt Mickie and Uncle Doug. It's a little over three hours to drive from our house to theirs, but we get to go past one of my favorite places (Asheville) and through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive up was overcast and foggy, so nobody really got to enjoy the spectacular views. Of course, even if it had have been clear, they would have had to pry their eyes from their technology first to do so. Cava was very excited when we drove through a tunnel. Despite the fog and the rain, it was a fairly pleasant trip up there.

On our first full day in Knoxville, it would not be a Blackwell trip if we didn't go to a science museum, so we went to the American Museum of Science and Energy. Both boys readily volunteered for being in a presentation that involved a Van de Graaff Generator. Cava was a little more wary of touching it . . .

Benjamin, on the other hand, was thrilled to get to touch one again.

After the presentation, it was off to exploring the rest of the museum. 

Whether it was working with the robotic arms . . .

Or learning about different types of energy, including nuclear power.

Including Benjamin pretending to be Major Kong at the end of Dr. Strangelove . . .

Cava loved learning about atoms, especially when I explained that the nucleus is like the parent and the electrons orbiting the nucleus are like the children running round the parent trying to get his or her attention.

Everyone enjoyed the museum, but the boys were ready to get rid of some energy at a nearby park.

We had researched ahead of time and found out that if you went to Dollywood after 3 pm, you could return on the same ticket for free the next day. So we decided to do this on Wednesday afternoon. 

Since we were there during the International Festival, we searched around the park among all the flags trying to find one for Ukraine, but were unable to locate it. Cava did find Ukraine on a map.

And when we rode the bumper cars, Cava picked a blue and yellow one since it was the colors of the Ukrainian flag. As excited as he was to find one that color, he delightedly cackled with glee every time he rammed his bumper car into the one with Mommy and Benjamin.

As we rode the old 192 train, Cava told me all about how he rode a train from the place where the orphanage he had been in to the boarding school where we had met him. 

Day two started off with roller coasters! First Thunderhead, a wooden coaster with a 100 foot drop. As we waited in the line, we were discussing how "crazy" this day was going to be and Cava topped us all with, "It's going to be C-A-V-A crazy!"

Then it was on to the Mystery Mine.  A line that was supposed to take us only 45 minutes, ended up taking over an hour and twenty-five because, just as we were about to get on a car, they decided to add another car to the track. Cava didn't take the wait too well and I had to calm his anger and tears. Once we finally did get on the coaster, it was two indoor 95 degree vertical hills with an 85 foot drop and a burst of flame. Of course Cava had to sit in the front seat. 

After that, we had some more problems with rides and tempers as we got in line for Smoky Mountain River Rampage, only to have the ride break down before we got on it. Then it happened again with Blazin' Fury. By this time, both boys were frustrated and ready to call it quits. Having just paid over $200 for us to come, Danelle and I were not about to leave. 

Taking a break from rides, we went to eat lunch. As we did, our family met Lilian the Chicken Lady. She came to our table, serenaded us on banjo. Cava thought it was really funny when Lilian paid attention to Benjamin.

But he didn't think so once the tiny rubber chicken was dancing on his head.

After lunch, we rode FireChaser Express, got soaked on Daredevil Falls, rushed down the Mountain Sidewinder, and checked out the eagle sanctuary, watched a show with Bald Eagles and hawks, ate funnel cake, as well as went through the Dolly Parton Museum called Chasing Rainbows. Benjamin knew the song "Jolene," but Cava had no clue who Dolly Parton was. He was excited to see that she had been on Alvin and the Chipmunks. Needless to say, we need to expose that boy to some "9 to 5" and "Here You Come Again." Not sure if he's ready to hear Danelle and I duet to "Islands in the Stream." Or, perhaps, "Coat of Many Colors" . . . 

The boys even wanted to pose in front of a car they said reminded them of the one on The Andy Griffith Show.

In the end, both boys agreed that they had enjoyed themselves overall and had a pretty good day. Benjamin's favorite was the explosive FireChaser Express coaster. Cava being Cava, said his favorite was some ducks we saw. Danelle and I agreed that our next trip will contain less manufactured moments that one gets at amusement parks and more where we can truly spend time with each other and not going from one line to the next to ride something.  

Still, we loved getting to see Uncle Doug and Aunt Mickie. Cava said his favorite part of the whole trip was watching birds from their back deck. They gave him a book on different birds and we just need to get him some good binoculars and we might just have a true bird watcher on our hands.

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