27 August 2018

2018 Summer Road Trip: Days 1 and 2

We planned an ambitious road trip this year. When people asked where we were planning to go, I usually sighed and said, "Everywhere," then quickly rattled off the following locations: Mount Rushmore, Nauvoo, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Dallas, Colorado. And then I'd answer their questions with how long we'd be gone (15 days), where we'd sleep (a mix of camping, hotel-ing, and staying with family), and how our kids did in the car (meh).

In summary:
-About 5,000 miles
-12 states
-3 national parks
-2 national monuments (plus another one that we drove by and saw from the highway)
-8 first cousins visited (My kids' first cousins)
-6 second cousins visited (Kids of Eric's cousins, but I didn't put Eric's cousins in the first cousins count...)
-3 nights of camping
-3 time zones
-60 bags of chips (the personal-size kind)
-8 audiobooks (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; My Father's Dragon; Elmer and the Dragon; How We Got To Now; The Dragons of Blueland; Ramona the Pest; Shiloh Season; The BFG)

Our first day was one of our longest drives. We were headed to South Dakota when we saw a sign for Martin's Cove and quickly decided to stop in. Neither Eric nor I had ever been there, and it has some significance in Mormon pioneer history. We were there about 30 minutes, and that was good enough for us.

That night we camped and got rained upon quite a lot. Mine and Felicia's tent held up nicely. Eric and Trixie's tent let in enough water that Eric said it was like being sprayed with a misting spray bottle all night. The boys stayed warm and dry in the van. The rain stirred up something that made my allergies go absolutely haywire, and I struggled all day with extraordinarily itchy eyes.

We went to church the next day in Hot Springs and then went to the Wind Cave National Park. It was very cool and definitely one of the most unique caves I've been in. It doesn't have the usual stactites and stalagmites and instead has this weird box-like pattern throughout its ceilings. As our guide started the tour he showed us the spot where the cave was first discovered by a white guy (Native Americans knew about it for centuries, and it is a sacred place for some of the local tribes). The guide held a handkerchief right next to a hole, and it blew out as if a fan was blowing on it. Thus the name.

The easiest way to dress the girls up in warm clothes was to put a layer of pajamas on top of them. We all stayed adequately warm. Felicia added "wow" and "thank you" to her vocabulary while in the cave. Trixie was frequently scared and begged for Eric to hold her.

We had planned to spend time in Custer State Park that afternoon, but the weather got the best of us. (There was hail on the ground when we exited the Wind Cave.) We did see some bison and prairie dogs as we left Wind Cave National Park and drove through Custer State Park. (We also followed the signs instead of looking at the map, so we ended up coming into the wrong part of the state park, which cost us a fair amount of driving time. Even had we not made that mistake, we wouldn't have been able to see or do much with the thunder storms.)

We made it to Mount Rushmore, which I was really excited about. The weather made it tricky to get a photograph since the presidents were often covered in fog.

When we got there, Ike asked, "Why is George Washington crying?" Eric said, "Probably because of the current occupant of White House." (Speaking of whom, he really does choose the best people, doesn't he?)

We knew we'd struggle to get set up for camping since the rain wouldn't let up long enough to do so, so we stayed in a hotel that night. All in all, I'd say Mount Rushmore was worth the trip, despite the bad weather. Trixie apparently thought so too. She asked me this about a week after returning from our trip:

18 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 9 (Willer-sur-Thur, Colmar, Riquevihr, Ribeauville)

As Eric and I planned our trip to Europe, my one non-negotiable point on the trip was visiting my ancestral hometown of Willer-sur-Thur, France. Now, I don't want to bore you both to tears with genealogy because obviously the two of you who read this are only here to see all my travel pictures. But, I am a genealogist through and through, and now I will tell you about my French ancestry.

For a long time Isadore Gasser was a mystery to me. I knew his name. I knew he married Maggie Browning in 1887 in Alabama, and they had children together. By 1900 Maggie was widowed, and the kids are listed in the census with a father born in France. I didn't know when he was born, who his parents were, what brought him to America, or anything, really. While I was still a student at BYU I used this branch of the family for a project in my Southern States family history class, and I made some headway on Isadore. I learned when he died, and I learned he was a hotel proprietor. I still didn't know where in France he was from or anything about his parents or siblings.

A few years later I took an AncestryDNA test. A couple of years after that I connected with a relative from the Gasser branch of my tree. The relative was descended from Isadore's youngest sibling, and the relative knew a lot more about the family than I did. Suddenly new records were opened to me, and one of my genealogy brick walls was knocked down. My good friend, Allison, used all the information that my relative and I put together, and she located the hometown for the Gassers. She also gave me pointers on using the digital archives so I could extend the family history.

Isadore actually came to the United States with his parents and siblings in 1851 aboard the New England to the port of New Orleans, as a three-year-old child. The family settled in Jefferson County, Kentucky. By 1870, his father had died, and his widowed mother eventually became a baker in a confectionary. (It seems so fitting that a French woman would become a baker in America.) Isadore first married Pauline Pargny on 23 February 1882, but she died on the couple's first wedding anniversary. From what I've been able to discover, Isadore left Kentucky around that time and settled in northern Alabama where he opened a couple of hotels and met and married Maggie Browning. (Her mother ran a boarding house, so it is possible the families were associated because of the hotel industry.)

I have found when I am more invested in researching a family, I love them more, and I feel more connected to them. I was thrilled to be able to visit the family's hometown in France.

This is the church in Willer-sur-Thur. My ancestors attended this church, and it is named after St. Didier. Isadore's father was also named Didier.

I loved the stained glass windows.

I lit a candle for my ancestors, which was special.

This is the font.

We also spent time in the cemetery, looking for my ancestral surnames. The people buried there are more recent than when my ancestors lived in the town. Although European cemeteries are beautiful, they re-use graves and don't always have grave-markers going back to the earliest interments in each spot.

After that we went to Colmar, the Little Venice of France. The church was (of course) beautiful.

And the canals were beautiful too. It was such a perfect little place. Plus we were there in perfect weather. With the heat wave Europe is enduring right now, I am just insanely grateful we went there when we did.

We went through a roundabout (or traffic circle, as the GPS lady called it), and we saw the Statue of Liberty. We actually went through the roundabout an extra time to snap a good photo of her. Many of our modern ideals of liberty come from French writers. I loved reading French literature (in English) when I took a French history class my last year at BYU.

A few years ago, Janssen blogged about her family's trip to Europe, and she mentioned going to one of the towns on which Beauty and the Beast is based. So obviously I had to go there too. We visited Riquewihr first.

And we hiked up to the castle ruins.

Obviously we sang Beauty and the Beast songs along our way. I have several on my phone, so we didn't even have to do it acapella.

It is just such an idyllic little town.

After our hike, we wanted to ride bikes over to the other town of Ribeauville, but we had forgotten that the French take lunch breaks that last 2.5 hours, so we weren't able to do that. I was actually fine with that since I was pretty sure I'd never make it up any of those hills, and I would just end up hating those towns. We drove over to Ribeauville, which is a bit more touristy than Riquewihr, but still lovely.

And of course I did my best Belle pose at a fountain.

I want to give a public thanks to Sophie. She hosts an AirBNB in Riquewihr, but we did not stay with her. (We stayed closer to Willer-sur-Thur.) But Sophie was incredibly helpful to us in Riquewihr, and she went out of her way to point us toward the castle, to identify where we could rent bikes, and to show us where we should get lunch. She even let us use her own bug spray before we headed out on our hike! If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Riquewihr, definitely consider staying in Sophie's place!

17 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 8 (Interlaken, Bern, and Basel)

Eric's one hope for this day of our trip was to row on a boat in Interlaken. We headed out on a scenic drive and saw some beautiful sites.

We went to another gorge, which was cool. It was amazing to think of the engineering involved to build the pathways in the gorge, especially considering that they were started in the late 19th century. Those German engineers know what's what.

We reached Interlaken, and we were immediately excited by how pretty it was and how perfect the lake was.

But then the boat rental place was closed. And there were no other places to rent rowboats. We could have done paddleboats, but why would anyone want to ride on a paddleboat? Or, more accurately, why would anyone want to paddle a paddleboat?

So we picnicked in town looking out at the Jungfrau (the big famous mountain). We had considered doing activities at the mountain that day, and had we known that the rowboat would not come to fruition, that is what we would have done. Ah, hindsight.

We went on our way and saw more beautiful scenery.

We stopped by the Bern Temple. We knew ahead of time that it would be closed for cleaning, but it has some family significance for Eric's family, so we wanted to at least go visit the outside. (Eric's paternal grandfather served a mission in Switzerland; his paternal grandmother has Swiss ancestry; and his maternal grandmother sang at the Swiss Temple dedication in 1955.)

We popped into Basel on our way to France. We decided our favorite historic towns are the ones on rivers. Other than grabbing a bite to eat, we didn't do much there, which is too bad.

And the on we went to France!

All in all, Switzerland was not our favorite. The different currency (they still use the franc), the high cost of everything, and the one activity Eric really wanted to do not panning out made us all pretty ambivalent about Switzerland.

16 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 7 (Lofer, Innsbruck, and Lucerne)

Our Lofer AirBNB was probably our best one. The town itself was gorgeous, and we could have spent a whole day there. (I included a pic of the house where we stayed so you can see how pretty the area is).

After stopping by a grocery store and grabbing some breakfast, we went on a nearby hike.

Then we checked out a cool cave. We didn't get very many good pictures there because it's hard to get good pictures in a cave, but it was really cool. I would love to tell you the name of this cave, but I have no recollection of that.

We also went to this really cool gorge.

The water was freezing, and my feet hurt by the time I got out of the water after waiting for Eric to get a good picture.

We popped into Innsbruck, Austria. We were literally there for about an hour. As far as towns go, it was a lot like other European towns. We took a few pictures, but our camera settings were off, so our Innsbruck pictures are all blurry. We went to a church, and it was cool.

As we drove along to Switzerland our GPS took us through Lichtenstein, which was not the route Eric had planned out. He was annoyed, but Andrew and I were overjoyed to add another country to our list. We were in Lichtenstein for a less than 10 minutes.

We also went to Lucerne, and in hindsight we were sad we had stopped in Innsbruck at all because we would have rather used that time in Lucerne. (Again, camera settings were off, so the pics are not stellar.)

We saw the famous statue honoring the Swiss Guard soldiers who were killed in the French Revolution. It really was beautiful, and the park that houses it was lovely.

We watched about two minutes of a World Cup game while we were walking the streets. It was neat to be in Europe during the World Cup since the Europeans (by and large) care so much about it. This game was Spain verses Iran (I think!).

We needed to hurry to get to our AirBNB that night since it was the one night where we were actually staying in the same home as our hosts (as opposed to a vacant apartment). We didn't want to arrive too late, or else we would have spent more time in Lucerne.

15 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 6 (Hallstatt and Lofer)

Without a doubt, our most beautiful day in Europe was spent in Hallstatt, Austria. It's just stunningly gorgeous, and it's one of the places that I'd love to visit again one day.

I loved wandering around the Catholic cemetery. Plus it had a cat.

We also went into the Catholic church, and of course it was lovely. I really loved admiring the art depicting the stations of the cross in all the churches. It took me a while to figure out why every church had the same stories depicted, and finally one of them had them numbered, and it clicked.

The Lutheran church was not as ornate as the Catholic. I had read most of Eric Metaxas's Martin Luther before our trip (and finished it after), so I have a special place in my heart for the great reformer. When we first popped into the church, Eric's parents were behind us a ways. I mentioned to Eric that I wanted to sing a hymn to more fully appreciate the acoustics of the church. When other tourists had cleared out and we had the space to ourselves, we began singing "Abide With Me," which is one of our go-to hymns because Eric knows the bass part really well. We stopped singing when more visitors came in because we didn't want to make a spectacle of ourselves.

We wound our way back to Eric's parents, and then re-entered the chapel. In that second entry we paid more attention to the painting above the altar and realized it was Jesus on the road to Emmaus, which is what "Abide With Me" is all about. I asked Gordon to translate the words over the altar, and he said they effectively meant "Jesus Christ yesterday and today and the same in eternity. Lord stay with us."

We also enjoyed views of the lake and the mountains and the town. The mountains rise straight up out of the lake.

Eric basically belongs on boats.

After our boat ride, we rode the funicular to the top of a mountain. You can see the rails of the funicular in the below picture.

The views were amazing.

After Hallstatt we parted ways with Eric's parents and headed to our AirBNB in Lofer, Austria. Eric had hoped to visit Berchtesgaden, but we didn't have enough time. We saw a little lake on our way to Austria, and went for a walk. We saw teensy tiny frogs and a magnificently fat beaver. And we got ice cream.