Day 7. Full on cross country mode has set in.
While eating lunch with the Babbs at Aurelia’s Brewery, Hunter mentioned Monday and I stopped for a moment. Was it really a weekday and not a Saturday or Sunday? Yes, I’ve reached that point where days of the week are meaningless. Not great when a wedding and prior events are scheduled over the ensuing week.
Further adding to the cross country ‘flavor’ is the aroma and disarray of the Sienna. Vacuuming the Sienna on a regular basis keeps that vehicle looking decent most times but now the crumbs, the locust smashed against the grill from a stretch through Texas, the windscreen smeared with bug parts unable to be dislodged with a gas station squeegee and actually worsened by the action, yes, we were in full cross country mode.
And the camping hadn’t even begun!
As you recall, we settled into bed at midnight the night before (or 2am Cville time) so the wakeup today was going to be rough on the kids–and the adults. Haha.
But sleeping in was not an option as today we were meeting the Babbs, our COVID bubble family from Deutschland. Currently stationed at Fort Bliss but headed to Korea, this was our one chance to see the Babb boys over a four year stretch since Germany unless the Floreskis make it to Korea.
Not wanting to take that chance, visiting the Babbs was a must on this trip and thanksfully, that superstar traveling family felt likewise.
The Babbs met us at 9am at our hotel requiring an 8am wake up (I can’t even remember a time as a kid where 8 hours of sleep was tough to deal with). From our hotel it was only a 15 minute drive to Franklin Mountains State Park to hike the Azetec Cave trail.
Such a different feeling hiking out West with no humidity and dehydration slowly sneaking up on you. Our destination, a cave, could be viewed from the trailhead parking lot and immediately the 11 of us were on our way. The trail is a straight vertical ascent and if this were Vermont we essentially would have been hiking up a black diamond ski trail in summer. It was that kind of steepness.
The folks we passed along the way began to warn us about the rattlesnake on the path just below the cave. His home? The middle of the trail under a pile of rocks. Thankfully, folks had made a new worn path to the side of his home. With 7 kids all anxious to climb, run, and get there first, they had to be restrained as we neared the top of the trail. Nate took the lead there and as he paused to pass a bush next to the rattlers home, the children called out, ‘come on let’s go!’ uncaring that Nate was considering if the rattler had moved into the bushes and might attack the first one to pass by his new home.
The rattler didn’t strike and Nate lived. And no, we did not see the snake.
The view from the cave down into the valley was beautiful but more than that it was cool. After taking our respite from the sun we began our descent. A fellow hiker mentioned when reading the reviews everyone spoke of loose gravel and loose it was. The descent was slow as we tried to find solid footing. Pretty amazing with 4 adults and 7 children no one took a bad spell.
The next stop was the batting cages, D-Bats, but we had time to kill before they opened. The Babbs did us a solid by allowing us to stop by the outlets to pick up a new pair of sneakers for Acadia who had been complaining about her falling apart sneakers which were probably two sizes too small for her. Probably only fair since she will be expected to routinely walk 25,000 steps on any given day.
With sneakers in hand, er on foot, we set off for the batting cages. Excellent facility and I liked that patrons are expected to fill the baseballs once their turn is over. Nothing like adding a little responsibility to young people even when they are paying for a service. Great trait to reinforce.
While the kids took turns in the batting cage, I ran down the street for a quick oil change with Valvoline. Guess what I did NOT have a chance to do before leaving on our cross country trip while the maintenance light was on? Yep, change the oil. No worries, it was only an additional 2,000+ miles before the change.
With batting practice we headed for Fort Bliss for a little miniature golf. Unfortunately, that amenity was not open during this Independence Day long weekend and opted for the Army Exchange which rewards schoolchildren with ten dollar gift cards for having all Bs on their report card and an additional ten dollars for all As. The Babbs and Floreskis walked out of there with 140 buckaroos! Great job kids.
The night concluded with dinner at Kiki’s where most partook in the house special, Machaca. Great food, great ambience, great company.
We decided to end the night ‘early’ but back in our hotel room at 9pm I mentioned to Jules, ‘it’s really not that early’. Funny how trips can do that to you.
TOTAL DISTANCE DRIVEN: 2,232
TOTAL FAMILY SEEN: Dannah
TOTAL FRIENDS SEEN: Lauren, Emily, Jill, Jud, Hazel, Kate, Mike, Nate, Erin, Beckett, Harper, Callan, Finley, Mr. & Mrs. Babb
TOTAL ITEMS LEFT BEHIND: Comfy black dress, collared Hunter shirt, scot tee shirt
PARKS VISITED: Washington State Park (AR), Franklin Mountain State Park (TX), Hot Springs National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe National Park