Chapter 11: Cottage Dance Party (final post on our big epic vacation!)


After St. Louis we headed back north but not home. Jessica’s aunt Aunt Nance and Uncle Brian threw family dance party at the cottage in Hancock, Wis., to celebrate their 60th year of life almost as many years of marriage. Here’s the happy couple:

The cottage is a peaceful little place on a lake Jessica’s family has had for years. Here are some random photos from our two days at the cottage:

Lewis and Bailey on a super high swing my brother and I built a few years ago.

Lewis getting casting instructions from Zach.


Many small hands touched many small fish.



Chapter 10: The St. Louis Arch

In all honesty our time would’ve been better spent at the City Museum for another day but, like the good tourists were were, we visited the Arch. The best thing from our visit there is this cool photo!

Jessica and the boys stuffed themselves into a tiny elevator and rose the 630-feet to the top as I napped with the girls in a nearby park.

Happy boys in a demo elevator:

Jessica said she could barely look our the window fearing she might throw the arch out of balance.

Chapter 9: St. Louis and the City Museum

In St. Louis we visited one of the singular most amazing places on earth, the City Museum. An “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.”

If you’ve not been it’s hard to explain. Built inside a former shoe factory in St. Louis, the museum is an inspired place to explore and crawl and slide and disappear and feel constant mind-bending awe and wonder. For instance, I was walking along a room with a massive life size whale and I noticed a little fireplace on the wall. Lewis walked over and said, “Papa, look, a hole!” and he slide down and disappeared into some tiny little tunnel to the basement. I tried to follow but couldn’t fit. He was gone! Here’s him coming out of another hole in a cave-like part of the museum with tunnels and dinosaur teeth and all kindsa crazy:

This is a random video I found on YouTube that captures some of different spaces pretty well.

They have big huge stuff just laying around, like this chain Jessica tried to pick up:

I was walking around some welded complex of wires and walkways and looked down and there’s Jessica and the girls!

Here’s the no-skate park. A complex of skate-park-like ramps that are slippery. Some spots were real high and kids could sorta freefall down to the ramp. Such a fun and simple idea. The kids played here forever.

At one point Art and I were exploring a hanging tunnel system and we found a little hole in a whale’s flipper and went down a level. And suddenly there was this incredibly long tunnel (like more than a hundred feet) we followed that took us to an entirely different part of the building. There are spectacular slides in every direction, some 10 or more stories high. It’s WACK! Next time we will return with at least two full days, we only explored a tiny fraction of the huge place. And they’re building new stuff all the time.

Art (or Lewis) going down on of the dozens and dozens of slides.

Outside the had a series of walkways and stairs and tubes and tunnels networking across the sky. They had a couple REAL airplanes suspended real high and kids could just go in and fiddle with what was left of the controls. There wasn’t some sorta reduced airplane-like cockpit to inspired pretend play…. There was the REAL THING! I just love that. Look closely in this photo and you can see kids crawling up from one airplane to another in some welded tube suspended high above the ground. Scary stuff!

Bailey and Netta take the controls.

Chapter 8: On the Road

We did tons of driving on our epic vacation. We had tried setting up little TV screens for movies in the backseat in years past but went movie-free on this trip. It was miserable at times but in the end our kids did wonderfully. Lots of books, music and many many stops to play at parks and move our bodies. We also tried to avoid feeling rushed as best we could, scheduling plenty of travel days and nights in hotels (with pools!). Here’s the general route we took:!1m53!1m12!1m3!1d6226107.174441534!2d-96.48600228723127!3d40.36249781176349!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!4m38!1i0!3e0!4m5!1s0x52b333909377bbbd%3A0x939fc9842f7aee07!2sMinneapolis%2C+MN!3m2!1d44.983334!2d-93.26666999999999!4m5!1s0x87c9670d2b58aa0f%3A0x14890415d07cb0d7!2sFayetteville%2C+AR+72701!3m2!1d35.998092899999996!2d-94.08999109999999!4m5!1s0x0%3A0x0!2s35.921427%2C-93.405116!3m2!1d35.921427!2d-93.40511599999999!4m5!1s0x87c0f0607541e5b5%3A0x79ed2889c696a834!2sThe+Gateway+Arch%2C+100+Washington+Ave%2C+St+Louis%2C+MO+63102!3m2!1d38.624691!2d-90.184776!4m5!1s0x8800e9b0042ec6ad%3A0x9e75cb0c226489b1!2sHancock%2C+WI!3m2!1d44.133584!2d-89.52317699999999!4m5!1s0x52b333909377bbbd%3A0x939fc9842f7aee07!2sMinneapolis%2C+MN!3m2!1d44.983334!2d-93.26666999999999!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1417622954499″ style=”border: 0;” width=”800″>

And a collection of photos from the road:

In Arkansas we saved this turtle from being squished.


On the way back from Devil’s Den State Park.

Bailey in the backseat after eating Netta.

While in Fayetteville we tooted around on a couple superfun scooters.

Chapter 7: Nanna’s party in Fayetteville

While in Arkansas this past summer on our ‘Epic Vacation’ we spent a few nights at my ma’s in Fayetteville. She threw a big party in part because my dad and his wife Cynthia were in town from North Carolina. It was a big fun time and there were some old friends from years past who showed up, including this longtime family friend I love, Johnnette!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my Pa and Ma were kind towards eachother and it touched me deeply. The little boy in me just loved seeing them together and expressing such good will and friendship.

And the same was true of Cynthia (my step-mother) and my ma. They’ve been friends for years but have naturally lost touch after my father married Cynthia and moved away. So nice to see those two amazing women together sharing memories and friendship.

My Aunt Jenny, right, with Cynthia.

My father meeting one of my mother’s best friends ever, Melody.

The kids were so excited to see Grandpa Tim. So hard to live so far apart!

Our childhood friend Tate Neyman (center) showed up. So fun to see him.

Chapter 6: Canoeing the Buffalo River

We had plans to canoe the Buffalo River but the water was low. BUT! The night before we took to the river it rained like crazy, such perfect timing. Here are some photos from the adventure down the river.

Look closely and see Jessica walking along the bluff.

Grandpa Tim loaded with grandkids. We had canoes and one slooow and safer raft for the smaller kids.



Jessica leading the way. Look at those guns!

Stop for lunch.

Lewis exploring.

Josh is gonna love this photo.

Can you find my brother in this picture?

Lest you think Grandpa Tim is an old fart!

Brave cousin Mira was the first to jump in.

Then Art.

Then together.

Sujit and Mira (not sure why this is black and white!)

Looking for skipping rocks.

Chapter 4: Absolutely crazy wild animal safari thing in Gentry, Arkansas

While in Arkansas this past summer we spent a day at “Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari” in rural Gentry, about an hour from Fayetteville. In my 20 years growing up in Arkansas we never visited the place. I’m not sure why. It’s an amazing place that allows for a certain closeness with animals that is totally unheard of at regular zoos. But it’s also probably a horrible place to be if you’re an animal and I’m sure zoologists and zookeepers disaprove. They’re out to make money, not educate folks on animals or provide animals with ‘enclosures’ that resemble their natural habitats. At one point I remember seeing a cage with a weird assortment of animals on a concrete floor (porcupine, monkey, something else). I asked a caretaker if they ever get out and he said no. The goal there seems more to see as many wacky unusual animals as possible and not to learn about them in any substantial way. So there’s that.

BUT! It was pretty fricken’ amazing to be so close to so many amazing creatures. Here with are in a ring-tailed lemur cage:

There’s a long drive through area, many miles, where you just slowly creep through huge areas flooded with cool living things. Like this emu:

And this camel:

And we actually got ZEBRA SPIT on our car window!

Here we are with a kangaroo, in the enclosure feeling it’s puffy fur.

Lots more photos after the jump…

The expression on Jessica’s face here captures the real sense of awe we all felt seeing these animals so close.

HEY, get off the road, Camel!!

They actually let you get close enough to touch and interact with monkeys! Something the kid in me has always wanted to be able to do.
You can actually PET the giraffes. It was so spectacular to see how tall they really are in person.

Wilson Park pool

So, I’m finally getting around to posting some more photos from our epic vacation this summer. It’s taken way too long! Anyway, this is me and the boys swimming at Wilson Park pool, the swimming pool a few blocks from my childhood home. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours here. Swimming, scouring under the wooden deck for dropped quarters and, on one stupid hot afternoon with friends, launching water balloons into the pool from far away. Something that got us in trouble with THE LAW!