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We took our first electric roadtrip as a family last weekend, as the children got Columbus Day (and the preceding Friday + the following Tuesday) off.  We headed to Guntersville, Alabama on Saturday, where my parents live by the state park.

But first, we stopped at a Nissan dealer in Rome to fill up on electricity and then headed northwest to Scottsboro, where airports’ unclaimed baggage is sold in a giant superstore.


The children got sunglasses and watches; the Mrs got jewelry; I got impatient to get some BBQ across the street.

After we had our BBQ, we headed to Guntersville just in time to watch the Alabama game with my folks (also UA alumni).  The next morning after church, my dad joined our crew to head up to Huntsville’s Botanical Garden, meeting my friend Jim Bob (whom I’ve known since 9th grade) and his family for the tour.  We loved it.  It was decorated for the fall with a Scarecrow Trail, Sorghum maze, and lots of things for children to crawl on or climb.


Then we parked by a Whole Foods to charge up again, using the hour or so for some shopping at a sale at Mountain High and having sushi at a new restaurant called Maki Fresh.

The next morning, Jim Bob’s family went with ours to explore Cathedral Caverns.  Led by our guide, “Rooster,” we explored the biggest and best cave I’ve ever visited (and I spent a good bit of time in caves as a child in middle Tennessee).

to-by-cave inside-cave


We were glad Rooster carried a flashlight, because just as we concluded the tour and were as far from the entrance (and daylight) as we could possibly be, the power went out in the entire state park (and surrounding town).

We then returned to my parents’ house for a BBQ lunch.  I got a picture of Jim Bob’s children with mine just before they headed home to Birmingham.


The next morning, we went to the city harbor, where replicas of the Nina (the most historically accurate Columbus replica ship ever built) and the Pinta ships were available for touring.



We followed a school field trip’s tour to learn about how the ships were built of wood and iron, using only hand tools, and how they decided not to build the Santa Maria, because it was much larger than the other two, so it couldn’t have made it up through the rivers that the other two are using for its 11-month tour (and the original didn’t make it back from the New World anyway, as it got stuck on a coral reef and had to be taken apart and turned into a fort).

Then we packed the car and headed up to the Chattanooga airport to use the super charger and headed south down I-75 toward Atlanta, stopping for Mexican food in Cartersville.


Our first electric road trip was a success!  It was a little scary on Sunday night when we got back from the trip to/from Huntsville with 6 people in the car, as the projected mileage was not as good as the actual mileage, and there are no high speed chargers in Guntersville (or even Huntsville).  I was worried about the next day’s trip and then heading home the day after that.  All we had nearby was my folks’ 110v plug next to their garage, which provided a whopping 3 miles/hour of charge.  I looked for RV campgrounds and found one rather close by at the state park we could use, but instead, we took my mom’s car to the caverns on Columbus Day, allowing over 36 hours of continuous charging before heading home (by way of Chattanooga) on Tuesday.  That said, I enjoy the challenge.  I like knowing we have set stops to relax, eat, shop, or exercise a bit.  And, not having to pay for gas or use nasty gas station restrooms is pretty nice.

Our next excursion is next week, when he head a bit farther away, to Saint Simons Island, and then there’s talk of trying to head out west between Christmas and New Year’s (as in, way out west…to the Grand Canyon and back!).  That will require significantly more planning, but I believe we’re up for it. And is there a better way to see the American West than by following Route 66 and/or the interstate?  No way.

As the girls sang “Welcome to Old York” to the tune of the similarly-titled Taylor Swift song about NYC, we started our 1 day in what would become one of my favorite cities visited in the world.

We came by train from Edinburgh after returning the car.  Then, about a mile walk to a bar where we got the key to our AirBnB and entered a building that was one of the oldest in York, but was decorated like a party in 1983.


The next morning, we’d planned to tour the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe, but it was closed for renovation, so we circled its exterior and enjoyed a beautiful day to be outside in a beautiful city.


Then, it was the National Railway Museum, an enormous museum full of trains.  As much as this stop was supposed to be about the 7-year-old boy, we all loved it.  It featured some of the first steam trains ever built all to way to the “bullet trains” that travel hundreds of miles per hour today, and everything in between.


We had coffee at the Perky Peacock next to the River Ouse in a haunted bridge tower.  Then, we explored “The Shambles” area of older residences in York that are leaning and, in places, starting to crumble, but is filled with interesting shops along its cobblestone streets.

We climbed Clifford’s Tower and visited the York Castle Museum, which featured an underground model of the city during Victorian times that all 5 of us loved.  Dinner was at a haunted pub called the Golden Fleece.


Then, we walked the entire 2-mile perimeter of the original city, but on top of the city’s walls:  a perfect way to see the city.  There’s just something about a city with walls.


The next morning, we boarded the train to London, excited about the several days ahead, but sad we’d only allowed 1.5 days in York.  Clearly, we’ll have to go back.


On the train ride down, my boy asked if we could look at a map of the United Kingdom, so he could trace all we’ve seen and would see in the coming days and learn how they relate to each other geographically.  Later, I learned my bride caught the moment with the above photograph.    I love how it captures a rarely shared moment that could have occurred 100 years ago as easily as it occurred in July 2016.

Maps, trains, and a little boy’s excitement over exploring a new place:  the good stuff.

This month’s Netflix* viewings were heroic and nostalgic.  I introduced my children to one of my favorite TV shows when I was their age:  “The Incredible Hulk” — the one with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. They liked it.  Sure, the special effects are a bit dated (read:  hokey) now, but seeing a bulky green man throw a bear across a river was pure television gold.  My son especially loved it.


Seeking a heroine instead, the girls started watching “Supergirl.” I watched a few episodes with them on a rainy weekend this month, and we all enjoyed it.  We tried “The Flash” as well.

When the kids were in bed, the Mrs and I finished this season of “Daredevil” in Friday night increments.  I learned she’d been watching “Jessica Jones” on her own (a point I resented a bit, as I’d wanted to see it, too), and next on the agenda is “Luke Cage,” which just dropped a couple days ago.

From what I see on social media, action hero shows and films are crazy successful these days.  “The Avengers” seems to be the only franchise guaranteed to make billions of dollars with each succession, which means we can likely count on continued installments indefinitely, given Hollywood’s aversion to risk.  I can’t help but think our lack of a hero–in sports, politics, business, etc.–in real life helps fuel this seemingly insatiable appetite for “make believe” heroes in our entertainment.

When I was a kid, I had posters of professional athletes on my wall; my boy has Avenger and Lego posters on his.  Whether this difference is good or bad, I see one certain benefit:  make believe heroes don’t fail or disappoint.  They don’t get caner, get busted for drugs or gambling, or get tried for murder.  They just fight evil and help people.

But what about the more adult-focused shows featuring heroes, like “Daredevil”?  Why do we cheer for a hero who ignores due process, rules of order, and traditional law enforcement?  Because we don’t trust our government to get it right.  We’ve seen it fail and disappoint.  And, given the news reports from Oklahoma, North Carolina, and other places recently, this will continue.

Frankly, I love the entertainment value of a trial lawyer by day who exacts vigilante justice at night.  And honestly? A bit jealous.

*This is my final Netflix “stream team” post after 3+ years of partnership.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to promote our family’s only source of televised content during this time!