Our Trip Report-Grab a coffee

Avatar for turtleemom
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Registered: 07-25-2007
Our Trip Report-Grab a coffee
Fri, 06-07-2013 - 9:40am

Some background information…  We would not have done this trip if Zeph hadn’t made Nationals.   My grand plan for the trip was a Civil War wrap up with the history bee In the middle.  We had not budgeted for this trip.  To keep costs down we ate at chains and fast food.  We really missed trying local specialties.  To cover hotels, food, gas, sight seeing and pet sitters we had a budget of $1200.    Many of the sites we visited were free thanks to our tax dollars at work.  Not really free, biut no admission charged.. We listened to 3 audio books and 2 pod casts (I slept through those) on the drive and chatted with on another.   We did not bring a laptop or iPods to encourage interaction.  Other than one night and one morning the hotel TVs stayed off.   DH did all the driving for which I am thankful.   I did all the planning for which he is thankful.  

We left about 9:30 Wednesday morning and arrived at Cheekwood Botanical Garden   in Nashville around 8pm.  I wanted to see the Bruce Munro light exhibition.  DH and Zeph weren’t really into the idea, until we got there.  The grounds were beautiful on their own and then add in the lights-- breathtaking. The exhibits were like a fantasyland.  I felt like we stepped inside someone’s artistic vision.  The frogs (real frogs, I love the croaking of live frogs--oxymoron?) could be heard all over the grounds, which added to the wonder.   We toured the art museum also.  Afterwards DH and Zeph agreed it was a great exhibit. 


We got to our Nashville hotel about 11:30 and were asleep pretty quickly.

Thursday morning checked out of the hotel and headed downtown Nashville to go the TN State Museum.  What a great FREE museum.  It was three floors of TN history from the Woodland time period through the 1880s.  It traced settlers’ journey, TN’s part in the Revolutionary War, the challenge to obtain statehood, TN’s part if the Civil War, and had a special exhibit on Jackson.  It was a good mix of sign reading, videos and artifacts.  DH was not into it, but agreed it was a nice museum if you are into that kind of thing.  Zeph really liked it and we were there for about 3 hours.  

After lunch, we headed to the Parthenon.  While impressive from a distance, up close you can see it is made from concrete and is cracked.  Add in the park vagrants and it was not at all awe inspiring.   Zeph loves mythology so we agreed to pay to go inside to see the Athena statue.  She was stunning as were the close up replicas of the statues on the porticos and the copies of statues from the British Museum.  There was also an exhibit inside that explained about the history of the TN Parthenon.  Reading about how difficult it was to build the replica led to an appreciation of the original in Greece and some wonder of the Ancient Greeks’ mathematical and architectural abilities.  While it turned out to be an okay stop, we would not go back again.

We left and headed to Chattanooga -about a 2 hour drive.   We checked into our hotel and swam before going to sleep.  

Friday morning we were up early and went to the Chickamauga Battlefield National Park.   This battle was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War with an estimated 34,000 dead.  That is more than US troops in WWI and WWII combined.  Staggering.  The visitor center and movie were informative and held our interest.  Then we drove the battlefield tour.  You follow a map and stop at areas with signs to follow the course of the battle. They also had a FREE number to call on your cell phone, which would give you more detail about the battle.  DH just so happened to have the necessary cable in the car to have the messages come from his phone out through the car radio.  

This is the first National Battlefield Parks to be established in the US.  Veterans of the Civil War were the driving force to make it happen and I love hearing how ordinary people accomplish monumental things.  Throughout the park are monuments in honor of the lives lost.  The place was thought provoking. 

Friday about 5, we pulled into our Atlanta hotel.  Wow, the place was busy!  It seemed most of the 400 History Bee participants were checking in at the same time!  As we walked in and saw all the kids, reality hit and Zeph started getting nervous.  We checked in for the History Bee also and found the conference rooms where he would be competing.  They were spread out over 3 conference levels and knowing where he had to be took away some anxiety.  

After the concierge assured us that it was a safe neighborhood, we walked a few blocks to dinner.  We were taken aback by the number of vagrants and by the amount of people smoking. While all the buildings were smoke free, the amount of people standing outside of them smoking was unusual (and disgusting) to us.  We had noticed this in Nashville too. 

That night it was hard to get to sleep.  I think we were all nervous.  

We got up bright and early Saturday morning.  Zeph eased his nerves while watching Spongebob. The Bee started with opening remarks and a rules overview at 8:45.  The competitions ran from 9:30 until 2:30ish.  Each competitor competed in 6 rounds.  Each round had 10 kids and a moderator and 30 questions.  The level of competition was much different than in the Chicago regional. There, Zeph easily took each round with the high score.  Here, all the kids knew their stuff.  We hardly heard a full question read since the kids were answering them after only a few words.  The questions varied and ranged form court cases to important documents, geography, presidents, weapons, wars, people, etc.  

Zeph was disappointed not to make it to the championship round.  He handled it with emotional maturity and we grabbed some ice cream after watching the championships.  He did finish in the top 25% which is a respectable.  We did know one family there so after the competition the boys met up in the pool and hung out.  

Zeph liked meeting other kids passionate about history.  It was good for him to see that there are other really intelligent kids out in the world.  In our academic community he is the big fish in a small pond.       

That night we ate at Hard Rock Café, within walking distance, and the place was full of kids who had competed.    After we packed up and went to bed. 

Sunday we checked out of the hotel and went to the Martin Luther King historic site.  Free and absolutely moving.  This stop was well worth the entire trip.  Talk about ordinary people accomplishing monumental things….  The movie brought me to tears.  The exhibits chronicled his life and the Civil Rights movement.    It was a good mix of video and reading.  This was the perfect wrap up to our study of the Civil War.  History books end with Reconstruction and the all were equal in the eyes of the law.  Not really.  It took several decades and dedication to bring that change about.   We also saw his childhood home (tour tickets were gone by the time we got there), the Ebenezer church, the eternal flame and his crypt.  The peace garden, while small, was beautiful and we took the time to read the poems written by local students.   

We were there about 3 hours and then headed back to Nasdhville-4 hours. After dinner, we hunkered down in the hotel room and I completed Angry Birds on my phone while DH and Zeph watched a LOTR movie on TV. 

Monday morning we were up bright and early and on out way to Fort Donelson.  This was not part of our original plans.  I had planned on us touring Carter House and Carton Plantation, but we’ll be driving back that way in November, so hopefully then.  Zeph had seen the sign on the way down and excitedly called out, “That’s where Grant went from Useless Grant to Unconditional Surrender Grant!”  So we went.  The visitor center was smaller, but the battlefield tour was fantastic.  You could easily imagine the Ironclads sailing down the river while canons fired.  There was hiking at some of the stops and it felt good to stretch our legs.  We saw a snake, and some deer also.  

The GPS took us on some backroads and we went by a bison ranch and got out and saw calves nursing and bison frolicking in the water.  We later stopped in Metropolis IL to take pictures with the giant Superman statue.

It was a good trip full of good experiences.  We got home safe and sound.  Zeph is already signed up for next year’s beeJ



iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Fri, 06-07-2013 - 3:08pm

I love the way that everything fit together: the interests, the curriculum, the trip, the competition...


Avatar for vegiemama
Community Leader
Registered: 01-06-2000
Fri, 06-07-2013 - 9:32pm

You did a great job planning the trip, Heather!  I'm so glad Zeph was able to compete.  We were cheering him on and hoping he was enjoying the experience.  Your tour stops sound varied and interesting, while still fitting with the general theme.  Now the challenge will be finding different spots to visit next year on the way...LOL.  Or will it be someplace else?

Homeschooling mom to DD15 & DS11

CL of Homeschooling, Signature Showcase, Ectopic Loss, and Fertility Charting

Avatar for turtleemom
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-25-2007
Mon, 06-10-2013 - 9:15am

We were lucky that the drive to Atlanta is full of Civil War sites. It made it easy to find stops. 

Avatar for turtleemom
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-25-2007
Mon, 06-10-2013 - 9:42am

I'm hoping that it will be somewhere else next year.  If not, there is a lot of touristy stuff to do in Atlanta or Chatanooga that we just didn't have the money for this year.