Thursday, April 24, 2008

13 Places I've Visited

This is the first official "themed" Thursday Thirteen, which I like because so many times I can't come up with a topic. Other times I can come up with a topic, but not 13 things about it.

So to welcome the travel season - or at least the planning phase of it - here are 13 places I've visited (in no particular order).

1. Gatlinburg, TN
This is my absolute favorite place. I love the coolness of the Smoky Mountains, the strenuous mountain hikes, the roar of the waterfall at the end of the trail. I learned to ice skate at Ober Gatlinburg, and now I wish I had attempted the luge. I was too chicken last time I was there - over 10 years ago! It was Thanksgiving then, and things were beautiful! Snow had just fallen in the mountains as we were getting into them. The town was twinkling with Christmas lights. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at Ruby Tuesday because Ogle's Family Buffet was closed.

I first went there with my grandparents when I was a "tween" and another time or two as a teenager. I went with my parents and sisters when I was a freshman in college. Billy and I made a few trips out there after we were married. I'd love to go again, though I'm sure it has changed quite a bit.

2. Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga is another place I love! When my grandparents took me the first time, I remember going to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Billy and I explored the trains and shops once when we were there.

Probably my two favorite things to do there are touring Ruby Falls and seeing Rock City, as many old barn roofs in the state encourage you to do.

3. Santa Fe, NM
This was our last big vacation together, 10 years ago this summer. It was also my first time out west. The drive through west TX was extremely boring, but Santa Fe was really pretty. I loved all the adobe construction. One of my favorite things was seeing and learning about the Miraculous Staircase at the Loretto Chapel.

We toured the Puye Cliff Dwellings and the Bandelier National Monument and went out to the San Ildefonso Pueblo to look at Maria Martinez' pottery. One afternoon we headed out to Los Alamos and visited the Bradbury Science Museum.

4. Carlsbad, NM
After leaving Santa Fe, we headed south to Carlsbad. Along the way, we came to a place where we could travel through Roswell or Alamogordo. Since neither Billy nor I are huge alien conspiracy fans, we opted to travel on to the White Sands National Monument. That was a really interesting stop, and the sand was beautiful, though blinding.

The drive into Carlsbad was long, but scenic. Not at all like I envisioned southeastern NM. Carlsbad Caverns were wonderful! I've always loved caves, and this one didn't disappoint. My favorite part, though, was watching the bat flight at sunset. I was amazed at how many bats live in the cave and fly out every night. I didn't think the last ones would ever get out! After a while, it looked like a column of smoke spiraling into the darkening sky.

5. Houston, TX
Billy and I took a long weekend trip here once. I remember the traffic was horrific! The two highlights were touring the USS Texas battleship and NASA's Johnson Space Center. They had various Apollo 13 movie memorabilia on display when we were there.

6. Destin, FL
It's been ages since I was here last! I guess maybe it was with my high school youth group? I went a few times as a teen with my parents and sisters, and maybe once with my grandparents. It's a typical beach town, from what I can remember. Condos and hotels, along with private residences and a few seafood restaurants, line the beaches. Across the highway, there are endless other restaurants, hotels, and tourist shops.

I remember one year when we drove into town, there was a shark-fishing tournament going on. There was a hammerhead shark hanging from a crane, but I don't know if it was real or just a tourist gimmick. I mainly remember being really intrigued by it; I've found sharks extremely interesting ever since I was a little girl.

I remember another time when I went there with my parents... We were driving into Fort Walton Beach, just minutes away from our "destin"ation, when Daddy got pulled over by the police. My sisters and I were immediately alert, watching and wondering what in the world was going on. The officer said he was speeding, but Daddy insisted he was driving with the flow of traffic. He was so mad about getting that ticket! He swore up and down (and probably still does) that it was only because he had an out-of-state license plate. According to the ticket, he was supposed to appear in court on whatever date, after we would've been back home. He said they'd be glad to get his money however it got there, so he mailed it instead. I don't think he's been back since... (Have you, Daddy?)

I'm not much of a beach person anymore. I used to love getting a tan. (Now I prefer to be pale all year long - not interested in skin cancer, thank you.) I also used to like to body surf. (After my last beach experience in Destin, I got stung across the back by a jellyfish. Two consecutive years when I went to the beach at South Padre Island in TX on mission trips, there was too much drama with rip tides and a life-saving human chain, a stingray, and a shark. I stayed out of the water on those trips and haven't been to the beach since.)

7. Orlando, FL
This is another place I've been to several times. On one trip there with my grandparents, my cousin Eric and I grumbled about it raining every day in the "Sunshine State". Still, we had fun at Walt Disney World, Sea World (where we ran into some friends!), and NASA's Kennedy Space Center. We also toured an alligator farm.

Several years later, Epcot opened and I got to go there with my parents and sisters. I don't remember going to the space center that year...

8. Washington, D.C.
I think this may have been one of the first trips my grandparents took me on. I must have been about 7 years old. I remember going up in the Washington Monument, walking along the reflection pool, walking around the Lincoln Memorial, seeing the Capitol and The White House, and touring the Smithsonian Institute.

9. Hot Springs, AR
I can't count the number of times I've been here. My grandparents took me several times, and Billy and I went there on our honeymoon. (We stayed at DeGray Lake.) You can read about our most recent Hot Springs trip here.

10. Eureka Springs, AR/Branson, MO
I went here with grandparents, with my church youth group, and with Billy (though we skipped out on Branson). I always loved looking for The Christ of the Ozarks from wherever I happened to be. The Passion Play was really good; I went twice, I think. I always loved walking around the curvy, hilly streets of Eureka Springs and seeing all the Victorian-style homes. I always imagined what it would be like to live in one. Silver Dollar City in Branson was always a highlight.

When Billy and I were in Eureka Springs, we found a great little Italian restaurant (whose name escapes me) where we ate fresh roasted garlic on hot, buttered bread. It was scrumptious! I got the waiter to tell me how to cook the garlic. Since then, I've only made it once. I need to do that again!

11. Mobile, AL
I mostly stopped here with my grandparents as we were passing through on our way to FL. I always loved going on the tours of the U.S.S. Alabama (battleship) and the U.S.S. Drum (submarine). I remember it was always fun riding through a tunnel near Mobile Bay on our way there.

12. Galveston, TX
This was probably the first real vacation I actually remember. I was 5 or 6 years old. My parents had an old white VW van, complete with kitchenette and fold-down table. I recall sitting at the "kitchen table", coloring away in my coloring book, while Daddy drove us to the beach. I can't remember if my cousin Marsha went with us or not, but I seem to recall her being with us. We camped on the beach, our tent pitched next to the van, I think. I definitely remember two things from that trip: getting the worst sunburn of my life, and seeing a dead baby shark washed up on the beach. That was my first encounter with a shark. I wanted to touch it to see what it felt like, but the little area around it was taped off. And so began my childhood infatuation with sharks.

13. Atlanta, GA
Yet another place I've visited many times. Stone Mountain was always my favorite place to go. I loved touring the antebellum homes and going up the mountain. I remember being so afraid the first time I went up in the cable car. I was afraid of heights. (I used to be afraid of mountains, afraid that I would somehow drop right off. I was always relieved beyond words when we would get back on "the ground" again. Now the mountains are my favorite place to be.)

One year we all went there with Daddy for a week-long class he had to take for work. We spent the day at the hotel, shooting pool in the game room or swimming. When he'd get back in the afternoon, we'd strike out somewhere. One of my favorite restaurants there was Lettuce Souprise You - a monster buffet of salad, soup, and bakery items. That's where I had my first chocolate chip muffin. Yum!

There are so many other places I've been, but I've taken up enough space for now... :o)

Which of these places have you been to? Where else have you been?


Neen said...

Orlando and D.C. are the only places that I have been from your list.

Kat said...

I have been to most of the places on your list! I was born just outside of Orlando...and I now live just outside Atlanta and 10 minutes (ish)from Stone Mountain Park.

Monday through Sunday said...

I have only been to about half of those places. Great list!

Cindy Swanson said...

I've been to a few of those places and would love to visit several others! Great list, Ashley. I will probably do the theme most of the time too, because it really is hard to think of lists sometimes.

Are you all psyched up for "Lost"?? :)

Chris said...

I've been to most of your places, but want to get to the rest. Great list!

Jenny said...

orlando was nice. ;) disney sucked though.

Eve said...

I've passed through a few of these, but never stopped to visit any of them. Sounds like fun.

Lindsay said...

i remember daddy getting pulled over for speeding in florida! haha! i remember that melissa & i were fighting (with our carebear sleeping bags) in the backseat & i THINK we were not buckled up. and we were scared daddy was gonna go to jail because we weren't behaving. hahahahaha. TOO funny! (not for daddy! haha!)