A Country Christmas

Silver Dollar City Campsite Cabins

Sunday evening we met Becky, Kevin, Dayna and Peter at the Silver Dollar Wilderness Campground in Branson, Missouri.  The campground and cabins were very quiet over Christmas.  We felt we were the only ones here.  We made a provisioning run and tried to buy enough food for the week.  It was a trick finding places to stow it in the little cabin!


Here is a video overview of the campground and cabin…


Christmas morning was special in many ways, but one you can see is the lot of us in matching PJ’s.  A first time for me!



Silver Dollar City is an amusement park with a very laid back, Christian feel.  The old steam train is a fun ride through the woods, and stopped on one place while an “old timer” read the story of the birth of Christ, and emphasized the meaning of Christmas.  Nice references to God are all over.  It’s done tastefully and quite refreshing in this commercial world!  Not that they are non-commercial!! They claim to have more lights than any other park, with over 6.5 million lights up this year.  EVERYTHING is lit up!  I’ll admit to being blown away with the gorgeous lights.   I tried taking pictures, but there is no way to capture the feeling of all those lights!









During the day, the park is themed as a small city in the 1880’s.  There are craftsmen working – blacksmiths, glassblowers, woodworkers, etc.  Except if it is too cold some of those are frozen out…  but there are tons of things to see and do.  Other parts of the park feature amusement park rides – several awesome roller coasters in particular.  One called the Time Traveler may be the coolest coaster I’ve ever done!

Wednesday we spent the day in the park, and went back to the cabin for dinner.  After the grandkids went to bed, we left Cherryl to watch them and went back to the park to hit the more advanced coasters.  The cold and the beginning rain drove most of the sane people out of the park, so we had no waiting in lines that had been terribly long during the day.  Most roller coasters are more fun in the dark, but when you add cold and rain the effect is quite dramatic!  We had a great time even though we ended up soaked!  I appreciated that the rain drove out people getting in the way of my photos, and the wet pavement made for great reflections.


Thursday we attended Dolly Parton’s Stampede – kind of a rodeo where they serve you dinner while you watch!  They did a great job of feeding 1,100 people simultaneously while we watched trick horseback riding!  The food was pretty good, and the show was really amazing.  Backdrops were magical, a small ice rink dropped down from the ceiling for a mini-ice show, and there was even a whole nativity scene enacted.  Good Job, Dolly!

The later it got in the week, the colder it got!  Friday we were back at Silver Dollar City, but most of the rides were closed because it was only 32 degrees!  We were glad that wasn’t our only day there…  Here is a cute family with frozen noses!  We’ve had a great Christmas Week with these kids and grandkids!


Socks of Rocks



Our great time with our kids in Washington was drawing to a close, so we had a little mini-Christmas celebration with them before we left.  Sunday was our early Christmas – we were to have all the great Christmas food, and even open some presents. So “Christmas Eve”, Saturday afternoon, we hiked to the top of Mt Badger, all of 1,500 feet.  It felt a lot higher than that – I think I’m out of shape!  The view from the top was nice, and it got dark just as we got back down… in time to show off someone’s extravagant Christmas lights.  Clever computerized lights synchronized to music that you could hear on your car’s FM radio.  Probably the most elaborate setup I’ve seen on a private home.


First thing in the morning we all checked out our Christmas Stockings… there was a new one in the group, with the initial E identifying it.  The grandkids wondered a bit about whose that could be… maybe the dog?  Hunter?  Why would his stocking have an E on it??  When Ashlyn emptied her stocking she found nothing but paper and rocks!  She looked close to tears!  And Bryan had the same fate!  In fact, all of us got nothing but rocks in our socks!  Then we discussed why that might be… and the grandkids came up with the fact that we are all sinners, and deserve nothing.  Then after a few wrong guesses, Ashlyn figured out that the E stood for Emmanuel, God with us.  That stocking was full of yummy treasures, which were shared around the room… There was even more hidden around the corner.  The point was rather eloquently made that God gives us far better than we deserve, and there is plenty for all.


I bought myself a Christmas present – a toy I’ve been lusting after for a long time – my first drone.  So here are a few shots of my first attempts at flying video.  The fun part is watching Bryan- he was so excited I thought he’d have a stroke!  I first tried tracking Karen and her van, then Bryan wanted to be tracked.  He couldn’t hold still and ran all over the place.  Lots of fun!  Warning: don’t feel like you have to watch the following video unless you like drones or like watching grandsons acting silly!


Unfortunately, later that day sickness arrived, and messed up most of our plans.  Somewhere between a third and half of the kids in school were out sick, and our house wasn’t exempt.  Ashlyn was hit pretty hard, and didn’t go back to school till Friday.  Karen was hit slightly more gently, but still out for the week, requiring substitute teachers for her class.  Cherryl and I belatedly got our flu shots and avoided the plague.


We were looking forward to the grandkids’ Christmas program Tuesday night, and it was fun even with a good portion of the students absent.  (There were 8 shepherds and 1 sheep!)  Poor Ashlyn was one who had to stay home, as did her mother.


One of the teachers posted this cartoon in his room… I love it!



The next morning we set out for Lincoln to spend the weekend with Cherryl’s sister and mother.  We were going to spread the trip out over 3 days, and the first day we made it to Salt Lake City uneventfully.  The next day took us to Cheyanne, Wyoming.  It was very cold and windy!

For much of the drive, the most beauty was in the sky!


Friday morning I saw a couple of interesting cars from our hotel window.  Sometimes when a car manufacturer wants to road test a new model, and not let anyone see what it really looks like, they tack on lots of extra bumps and bulges, fake grilles, and a very strange squiggly paint job to disguise the car.  There were two of these just outside our window.  The drivers started them up, so I had to go down and chat with them.  As I expected, they would not tell me what the cars really were.  There were so many bumps attached to the cars it reminded me of the climbing walls we’d done in Washington!  I was surprised that the entire interior was draped in black cloth, so you couldn’t get any clues there either.  A tiny slit in the drape let the driver see a part of the instrument panel, but even the center of the steering wheel was covered.  I could see two grab handles on the center console, and said it looked like the Porsche Cayenne.  The driver just scoffed.  The only other hint I got was the windshield wipers – a fancy wiper mechanism I’ve only seen on Mercedes and Porsche.  I asked him if there were only these two cars on this test, and he said they had another at the other end of the lot.  He said they’d driven from Southern California, up to Wyoming and would go from there to Nebraska and Minnesota.  Then fly home for Christmas, and then start over with more cars.  As they drove off, I saw the third car – an unadorned Mercedes wagon.  Were these future Mercedes?  Or did Porsche use a Mercedes wagon as a decoy? Am I the only one crazy enough to care??



So after breakfast, we loaded the Jeep, and didn’t start it.  Sigh.  Sounded like the battery had died.  Maybe it didn’t like the cold any more than we did.  The hotel staff were happy to help me jump start it, but I had to empty the back of the Jeep to get at the cables.  Ok, but not really… because that didn’t do it.  We called AAA, and in only 38 minutes they had a nice guy and a beautiful big truck to help us out.  He tried his battery booster gadget, and that didn’t do it, so we pushed the car out to where we could jump straight from the truck’s system.  No dice.  We concluded that the starter had perished, and we would need a tow.  But our nice tow driver said we had another problem – his winch cable broke last night and he couldn’t tow us.  They’d figured it would just be a jump start, or they would have sent a different truck.  So we waited for a second truck, and called around to see who was still open and able to replace our starter.  One place said they would try to work us in today or maybe tomorrow…

Cherryl had a new friend keep her company in the repair shop…




But we were fixed up by 2:30, and then on the road again!  So I am trying something new… posting this at 75 mph (or so…) as Cherryl drives.  We should be in Lincoln in a couple of hours… only 7 hours behind our projection!


Merry Christmas!!

Colonial Christmas

The Nutcracker Sweet…

We attended a wonderful rendition of the Nutcracker Suite performed by a troupe of mostly high school students.  They danced beautifully, the sets were great, and of course Tchaikovsky’s famous score is always awesome to listen to.


Snow Day

Sunday night it snowed, and the schools were placed on a 2 hour delay Monday morning.  This delighted both our grandchildren and our daughter (the teacher), but amused us greatly… because there must have been 3mm of snow!  Ok, I realize the roads may have been icy in spots, but it really was funny!  Here are our grandkids having fun in the huge snowfall!



Colonial Christmas

We decided to get a few things off the boat, check out the progress there, and rack up a few more flight miles… So while back in Virginia, we spent Thursday evening at Colonial Williamsburg.  All the houses are decorated as they would have been in the 1700’s – so no huge colored lights here!  The one exception is the Williamsburg Inn, which is “off property”, and done up with millions of little white lights.




I love both architecture and night photography, so I had great fun here.  Most of the houses had a single candle in every window.


Every evening they have a ceremonial illumination of the taverns.  (No, I did not get illuminated in a tavern).  The Fife and Drum corps starts at one end of Duke of Glouster street, playing as they march, stopping at every tavern.  There are several taverns on that street, and at each the torch bearers would light 4 cressets, which are wire baskets fixed to posts.  These fires, at about 6 feet off the ground, provided very impressive illumination in the cold dark night.


Ice Skating 

It seemed very nostalgic to see open air ice skating on this beautiful clear night…


The College of William and Mary

The college was founded in 1693, making it the second oldest in the US, behind Harvard.  King William and Queen Mary would be proud of its beautiful campus.



Bruton Parish Church Colonial Christmas Concert



The Bruton Parish Church was completed in 1715.  That was the beautiful venue for a concert by the Manassas Chorale, about 100 voices strong.  And I do mean strong!  They were fabulous, and in that magnificent old church, the concert was almost enough to bring tears to your eyes! (And I must admit, sitting in the harsh 300 year old pews almost brought tears also).  I don’t remember ever seeing a chandelier in a public place with real candles lit before…

They reminded us that it was 200 years ago this Christmas that the organ broke down in a small town in Austria, and the priest couldn’t imagine a Christmas eve service with no music.  So he had a poem he’d written set to music, and performed to guitar accompaniment that beautiful Silent Night.

The concert was breathtaking, and an awesome finale to an evening in Colonial Williamsburg.






A Week in Washington

Last weekend we made a couple of apple pies.  I’d just seen pictures of some pretty fancy crusts on pies, and volunteered to try something different on our pies.  They were different!  We took them to some friends’ house for dinner Saturday.  Wonderful people, lots of fun… and I liked the dishes, all with different scriptures written on them.  That is, till they served me my pie on a plate that knew I didn’t need dessert… it said “Repent!”


Our grandkids had a day in school where they were to dress like what they’d like to do when they grow up.  Bryan was a cowboy, and Ashlyn was a CIA secret agent.


Very early one morning I drove Loren to the airport for a commercial flight (yes, he sometimes has to fly commercially).  I wandered around a bit on the way back to the house, and found this cool building all lit up.  Franklin County Courthouse.



This area is not known for its long growing season.  Here is Karen with her entire carrot crop!



Decorating the Christmas Tree is always fun!


I got to fly with Loren again, this time to Lewiston, Idaho.  A 2.5 hour drive was 25 minutes in the air!  Gotta love Jets!


If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like to descend into and through the clouds, you can watch the short video below.

If you are a crazy lover of all things aviation, like maybe I am, you can watch the long version, where we go through the clouds, land and taxi, all in real time.  Kind of long, so only watch if you are an airplane buff…



Music by bensound.com

More Road Tripping

After Thanksgiving, we spent another couple of days in Lincoln.  Our Grandkids and Grandnieces had lots of fun playing together!  Note that this “Rocking Burro” was made by Cherryl’s father Frank, well over 30 years ago.


Saturday night I got to spend a little more time with my new friend Terry.  His Camaro had the engine torn apart last time I was here, and now I got to hear it roar!  It was too cold outside to drive it, but it sure puts out some violent noise!

Sunday morning we were to continue our road trip to see our daughter and family in Washington. Wind had covered our Jeep with snow before we got going, but we saw nothing but wind and a little drizzle on the length of the trip.

After a too brief stay with dear friends Lonnie and Laura in Denver, and a visit to the awesome McArthur Dentisty office, we were off to Washington.

We chose to go a northern route to the Tri-Cities area, through Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and not be in too big a hurry.  Our second night we stayed in Wallace, Idaho… not because we knew how great it was, but that it was in the right place for our timing.  But it turns out Wallace is a very cool place!  It remains the world’s largest silver mining area, with billions of ounces produced.  It was a thriving mining town in the late 1800’s, and in 1890 a fire leveled most of the town.  They rebuilt with stone and brick.  Two decades later, the Great Fire of 1910 attacked… This is considered the largest fire in U.S. history, with 3 MILLION acres burned.  California is staggering after a terrible fire season right now, with something like 160,000 acres burned.  The Great Fire of 1910 was 18 times as large!  The sap of the White Pine trees created fumes that just exploded, burning over three states in only two days!  Heavy rains extinguished the fire, but something like 78 firefighters perished.  One forest ranger called “Big Ed”Pulaski guided 40 firefighters to safety in an abandoned mine cave when the fire surrounded them.


In the 1970’s, the highway department was going to build I90 right through the middle of Wallace.  The town fought hard to avoid demolition, but bulldozers started razing buildings.  At the last minute, they got someone in authority to listen, and had the whole town designated a historic area.  The compromise had I90 built as an elevated highway down one edge of the canyon that Wallace inhabits.

Wallace has some very nice old buildings downtown, and some very steep roads into residential areas… including several long public stairways.


At some point, the Mayor of Wallace declared the intersection of 6th Street and Bank Street is the “Center of The Universe”.  The town says that if you can’t disprove a thing, then it must be true.  If you look closely you can see proof… signs proclaiming it to be so.  We have now been to the Center of The Universe!


In the 1950’s and 60’s, America was enthralled with outer space and space exploration.  Many businesses played up the space theme, which resulted in cute places like the “Stardust Motel” in downtown Wallace.  It even has a small spaceship, with seats inside for intrepid explorers!


On a slightly more earthbound level, we have had fun with our Kids and Grandkids here in Washington.  At the gym, we got to do some climbing, and even some racquetball!