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Published: September 9th 2011
In 1996 we had visited Bob's sister Sue in Florida. In 1997 we wanted to visit Bob's other sister Judy and her family in Katy, Texas. Bob's youngest sister, Carol, and her family were living in Bangkok, Thailand, so that trip would have to wait for ten years. We decided to take the scenic routes for the most part, stopping along the way to visit friends and national parks and other historical and cultural attractions.
28 June 1997 Saturday. We headed west from Falls Church on I-66 and then south on I-81. Our first diversion was the Skyline drive and its extension the Blue Ridge Parkway, which we followed almost the full length to the North Carolina border. It was slow, but very scenic. We stayed the night at Johnson City, Tennessee.
29 June 1997 Sunday. The next morning we continued along the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains to Pigeon Forge. On the way we opassed a sign pointing to Chucky, Tennessee. Linda thought that was an interesting name and wanted to go. I didn't want to detour out of the way, so continued on my course. To this day, Linda still reminds me that she wants to
visit CHucky. She is persistent. We decided to skip the cultural capital of the region, Dollywood, and visited Great Smokey Mountains National Park instead. We hiked several short trails to waterfalls and went to the old farmsteads at Cades Cove.
Then we were off to Huntsville, Alabama. We visited that evening with Rich and Judy who we knew from Ramstein, Germany. They joined us beside the hotel pool.
30 June 1997 Monday. From Huntsville we drove to Tupelo, Mississippi and stopped briefly at Elvis Presley’s home. We took the Natchez Trace Parkway from Tupelo to Jackson, stopping at the Chickasaw Council House and other points of interest along the way.
At Jackson we turned west to Vicksburg and checked into our hotel. We visited the Vicksburg National Military Park, the site of a Civil War Battle fought at the same time as Gettysburg, 4 July 1863. After General Grant’s success at Vicksburg, President Lincoln brought him back east to finish the war.
1 July 1997 Tuesday. We drove along the Mississippi River to Natchez and then to the old antebellum town of St Francisville, Louisiana where we saw several plantation manor homes. In Baton Rouge we
caught I-10 west to my sister Judy and her family’s home in Katy, Texas, arriving in time for dinner.
2 July 1997 Wednesday. We drove from Katy to the NASA Space Center in Houston, and took the tour of the historic Mission Control Center, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, the Saturn V Complex and several of the astronaut training facilities. We were there most of the day and returned home to use the pool. Texas is HOT in the summer so the pool water was hot and the tiled area around the pool was too hot to walk on without flip-flops! I learned the lesson never to visit Texas in the summer. I even missed my nephew's wedding that was in August 2000.
3 July 1997 Thursday. We drove south to a restored ranch on the Brazos River that is open to the public, and has displays and demonstrations of the cowboy craft. We rode horses and had lunch there, but didn’t stick around too long due to the heat. We went to a movie that afternoon just to be where it was cool.
4 July 1997 Friday. We went shopping in a mall and then pretty
much stayed around the house as it was too hot to go swimming. That night we went to see the community fireworks at the Katy High School football stadium. There isn’t anything more American than that!
5 July 1997 Saturday. Today was pretty much like Friday, except no fireworks.
6 July 1997 Sunday. We went to church where Judy's husband Dave was the pastor. After we drove the three hours to San Antonio, where we walked along the Riverwalk and took a tour boat, and then saw the Alamo. Our hotel was directly in front of it. We had dinner on the Riverwalk. As far as I am concern, this is the highlight of Texas.
7 July 1997 Monday. We left after breakfast and drove northeast to Dallas and then east towards Arkansas. We stayed in Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border that night.
8 July 1997 Tuesday. Our first stop was Hope, Arkansas; Bill Clinton’s hometown. We ate brunch at the local diner, and got an impression of the townsfolk. We continued to Hot Springs, and saw the house where Bill Clinton was born. We continued north on scenic Route 7 across the Buffalo National River
and finally arrived in Branson, Missouri where we checked into a motel. We then drove around town to see all the various theaters that make the town famous. We didn’t see a show…the kids weren’t up for country western music..
9 July 1997 Wednesday. From Branson we headed northeast to Mansfield and visited the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where she wrote all her Little House books. We drove east on US 60 and crossed the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois and then passed through Paducah, Kentucky. We stopped in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the night
10 July 1997 Thursday. Our first stop was Mammoth Cave National Park, which is the worlds longest know cave system with more than 390 miles explored. We took the tour into the caves, which although we didn’t see the entire system still took the rest of the morning. We continued north and east through blue grass horse country near Lexington. We stopped for the night in Huntington, West Virginia.
11 July 1997 Friday. We took the scenic route across West Virginia, stopping at a flea market in Elkins. After driving up one mountain and then down into a valley and up
the next mountain and then down into another valley, repeated a dozen times, I swore I would never take the scenic route through West Virginia again. Another hard learned lesson. We finally arrived home that evening.
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