Whew!  We finally finished all of the chores necessary to get the house on the market.  You know…cleaning, taking care of those repairs we’ve been putting off, de-cluttering, removing family pictures, painting, etc.  Since we are not planning to be in a regular house for quite a while, our process has also included sorting things into give away, sell, pack long-term, and pack short-term piles.  Then, of course, we had to get rid of the piles and make things all neat again.  There are now boxes stacked in the lower garage and a LOT of stuff has been carried off to various places.

I’ll readily admit that we’ve been spoiled with our previous moves.  MW worked for American Express for 22 years, and they moved us twice (almost a third time to Phoenix, but we dodged that bullet).  For those moves, the process was: 1) Fly to the new town and spend 3 days finding a house; 2) Set up an appointment with the moving company; 3) Hang out and answer questions while the moving guys packed up and loaded all of our stuff, including two classic cars; 4) Take a leisurely drive to our new home; 5) Hang out and answer questions while the moving guys unload and put all the furniture where it needs to be and all of the boxes in the appropriate rooms in the new house; 6) Spend the next few weeks unpacking at a leisurely pace.  Amazing, right?!?!?!  In fact, having been in the Marine Corps prior to working for AMEX, MW has NEVER actually moved himself as an adult!  I wasn’t that lucky.  In my “before MW” life, I moved eight times, three of which were on the Federal Aviation Administration’s dime, although I still did the packing.  The other five were me (us when I was married to my first husband).  However, family and a terrific group of ‘troller friends helped lighten the load.  It definitely wasn’t the cake walk that AMEX moves were, though.

With the work done (for the moment) and the house finally on the market, we decided it was high time to take Petunia on the road and headed out on May 15. Our first stop was Tennessee to check on progress and unwind a bit. This time we chose to stay at Cumberland Gap’s Wilderness Road Campground where we had been before with Penelope. It is a nice place with paved, wooded primitive and electric-only (20, 30, & 50 amp) sites available that are not stacked right on top of each other. Hikers can take advantage of the many well-maintained hiking trails that are easily accessible from the camp sites, and you can actually hike for multiple days with several backpacking campsites along the trails. (MW is thinking about heading out for a couple of days on our next visit, since he didn’t get to take the Great AT Hike this spring.). We spent a couple of days mostly relaxing. We hiked to the bat cave, and MW went on a longer hike, too. I had a chance to get my hair cut, stock up on groceries, and fill prescriptions in New Tazewell, and we went by Booger Holler to see the changes. We also checked in with Harrison Farm & Home Supply in Sneedville, who has our building supplies account. (Phil Harrison is our builder’s father-in-law.) The only restaurant of note was the Old Town Grill in Tazewell. We’ve eaten there several times over the past few years, and it never disappoints. This time I had BBQ Nachos, which were incredible. MW had a reuben that was also very good. With warm, clear weather, the Cumberland Gap stop was a great beginning to the trip. (Our one irritation was not being able to get the outside stove gas connector working. The plastic cover was off, and the connector was filled with mud. MW worked on it a bit, and later did get it fixed, but that night I just cooked inside.)

After spending three nights in Tennessee, we headed for Kentucky. My sister Kate told us about the Ark Encounter a couple of years ago, and I’ve really wanted to go. We arrived on Saturday at Kincaid Lake State Park near Falmouth after a very LONG 150ish mile trip. (Since we try to avoid highways, the curvy roads through eastern Kentucky really slowed us down.). It was a pretty drive on a perfect day, though, so that was nice. The campground at Kincaid Lake was very crowded when we arrived. With the beautiful, warm weekend, everyone wanted to get outdoors, and who can blame them. The RV sites were graveled with electric and water. Ours was fairly level side-to-side, but it was pretty sloped, and it appeared that the others were similar. They also had primitive sites (some with water), but we noticed that almost all of them seemed to be fairly sloped. (Back in our tent-camping days, that was something we did not like.) A few of the primitive sites were right on the lake, though. Compared to most of the state parks we’ve stayed at, the sites were much closer together. It felt more like a private campground where the trade-off for trees and privacy is a LOT of amenities…pool, marina, golf course, country store, etc. Since we prefer the former, it would not be our first choice, but is certainly a great place for families.

Throughout the morning on Sunday people were clearing out of the park. We went into town for lunch at Two Rivers Stone Baked Pizza, which was pretty darned delicious. We had two smaller pizzas (Meat Lovers and Hawaiian) so we could bring some home, and I also had a side salad that was beautiful with fresh mixed greens, spinach, and a good assortment of toppings. On the way back we picked up groceries, and by the time we returned to Kincaid Lake there were only about 10 rigs left in the place. Unlike previous situations, none were parked near us, so it was really nice! The weather was cool and breezy with a high overcast, so we sat outside for a bit, then spent the evening indoors. Overnight it rained briefly and the temperatures dropped into the upper 40s. That combination usually means I sleep like a log, but not that night. In the wee hours I was jolted awake by what can only be described as the sound of hundreds of maniacs laughing in an asylum! It was REALLY loud, helped by the fact that we sleep with our windows open, and scared the crap out of me! After a few minutes I was pretty sure of the source…coyotes. (The next morning I found the YouTube video below that has the same sound. Check that out!) The pack must have been huge and sounded like they were just up the hill. I wish I could have seen them, but there was nothing but blackness out the window.

On Monday we were up early and headed out to the Ark Encounter near Williamstown. It took about 45 minutes to get there on a beautiful drive through farm country. The parking lot is HUGE, so clearly they get a LOT of visitors. You can see the Ark on the next hill as you park, and buses take you over to the site. The first stop is a welcome center that has a gift shop, theater, bathrooms, and a snack bar. The theater runs several different movies throughout the day that are included in the ticket price. After looking around for a minute, we walked over the the Ark. (If walking is difficult, there are shuttles, everything is wheelchair accessible, and they rent scooters at the first building.) It is hard to describe walking up to a boat that large. We have been on the HMS Victory, submarines (a German u-boat and the USS Drum), battleships (USS North Carolina and USS Alabama), an aircraft carrier (USS Yorktown), and multiple cruise ships, but nothing really prepares you to see a ship that large built out of wood. It was awe-inspiring! They used modern equipment to build in two years what took Noah and his sons between 75 and 100 years to finish. (In all fairness, Noah’s team had to cut and prepare all of that wood!). There is very little information about the original Ark. Genesis has some specifics, but not much. In order to come up with what the experience of being on the actual Ark might have been like, the designers here researched building techniques and available materials of the day. They also look at what we know from fossils about animals from that time period. The thing I really liked was that they told you up front that there is a lot of educated artistic license being taken. For instance, the Bible says that the Ark was built out of gopher wood, and they go into detail about what that is believed to have been, what they built this one out of, and why. For every area there are signs telling you what is biblical fact, what they made up, and what research they used to make the decisions. They talk about the types of animals, how many there were (including the discrepancies between the numbers given in various translations of the Bible), and how eight people might have managed to feed and care for all of them. It is fascinating! The ship is four levels of exhibits, and you can go at your own pace to take it all in. There are three theater areas that are showing movies about the building of the original Ark. (Oh and don’t miss the time-lapse video of the building of this replica on your way in, either!) There are plenty of sitting areas to take a break, and each floor has snack areas in one end. They also have a couple of real animals on display, my favorite being the hairy armadillo. The most spectacular thing, though, is just looking up through the ship at the huge beams and enjoying the engineering. These guys did a great job! After about 2-1/2 hours of walking around inside, we headed over to the buffet for lunch (amazing food, and don’t skip the salads), then walked through the small zoo. (They are currently expanding the zoo and adding a large playground area, too.) They offer camel rides, a zip line, and plenty of shopping experiences, too, so you really could make a whole day of it. My thoughts/recommendations: 1) When we first looked online, we thought the ticket price of $49 was really high. After going, I would spend that again to see the same it. The entry ticket includes all of the movies, the zoo, and access to the Ark for as long as you like during the day. You are going to pay extra for parking ($10), zipline, camel rides ($8), food and snacks, and of course, souvenirs and gifts. (There are a variety of ticket packages available, so some may eliminate some of the extras. You can also get a combo ticket for $75 that admits you to the Bible History Museum that is about 40 minutes away.) 2) Take it slow. 3) Wear comfortable shoes! 4) Go during the week, preferable during the school year. (They clearly fill that parking lot up some time.) 5) If you must go during the summer, be prepared for large crowds and heat. (There was a sign that said they have had 2 million visitors since opening 2 years ago.) We finished out our day back at the campground relaxing with hot dogs and smores for dinner. Yum! The weather was perfect…clear and breezy with a high of 73. We sat outside and enjoyed the early evening before heading in.

Next up we head further west. See you on the path!