Week 32-  April 17 - 23 Week: Making Tracks

We started this week driving to a church in the little town of Caveland, not far from where we camped for the weekend.  It appeared to be a newer congregation renting out an older church building right on a main street of generations past.  We enjoyed the worship time, a mix of contemporary and country sound.  My favorite was when it all culminated in a slow Kentucky hills rendition of The Old Rugged Cross. 

The service was going along like many typical ones we’ve experienced, when the preaching minister, a younger man, started his sermon.  It was like getting hit by a truck!  He came out of the blocks full speed, high volume, spit flying, with an aural assault of fire and brimstone that left me out of breath and wishing he would take one!  Although many of his points were excellent, the presentation was a bit painful… another experience that I pray will broaden the kids’ understanding of diversity in the body of Christ. 

Our lengthened stay near Mammoth Cave meant only a day trip through Louisville.  We got an early start driving and made it to town for a late morning tour of the Louisville Slugger factory and museum.  The factory tour is fascinating.  Perfect ash bats are spit out of automatic lathes in under thirty seconds.  We were also shown a special production area for the major leaguers.  There are special bins with different stars’ hand picked billets awaiting milling on a separate, high tech, computer controlled lathe. 

As a kid, I listened to every Detroit Tiger game there was, narrated my own as I threw a ball to myself, knew every player’s name, and never took off my plastic Tigers batting helmet all summer.  There was something about the game of baseball then that inspired kids.  It seems a shame that summers in the neighborhood seem so different now, kids are rarely even outside anymore…  You can tell that my Louisville Slugger baseball museum experience got me philosophical, sorry. 

After a lunch outside of Churchill Downs, (we ran out of time to take a tour) we stopped by to see my Aunt Francine, whom I had not seen since her husband’s funeral thirteen years ago.  My dad was one of three boys including her husband Norman, and another brother David.  David had no kids, and Norman and Francine had two girls.  Combine that with my only brother having two girls, the fate of the Kirkwood name in my family tree lies completely on Nate’s shoulders! 

We left the Louisville area that same day to make it to Berea Kentucky.  This little town is known as a center for Kentucky craft artisans.  The next day we wandered through the little town, enjoying demonstrations of glass works and loom weaving, before finishing off our drive through Kentucky and starting  our brief foray into West Virginia.   

We needed to be in Gettysburg Thursday, so West Virginia was a pass-through state.  We stopped in the Capitol city of Charleston for dinner at the Southern Kitchen.  We have been toting around a book called “Road Food” highlighting different local eating establishments around the country.  We finally got a chance to visit one of their recommendations.  The authors raved about its good southern cooking, but our food was dry and disappointing.  We may just have to toss the book… 

The rest of our drive through West Virginia magnified the poor impression begun with our meal in Charleston.  Driving through the state with a big RV pulling a van is oppressive.  In the west, it seemed like there would be high passes to navigate across, but then there would be level areas of respite.  Not so here in this part of the Appalachians.  The mountains are non-stop, and we were exhausted by the time we made it out of West Virginia, through a small slice of Maryland to Gettysburg. 

We were rewarded for our perseverance upon arriving early afternoon at our campground just a few miles from the Gettysburg battlefield.  The weather was summery and we took a school break to play tennis at the court close to our campsite, and to later explore on our bikes.  The kids have been working very hard at their science challenge: 

We have not been following any science curriculum on the trip.  Instead we have been making teaching opportunities to as they arise in our travels.  I recently promised the kids a special reward if they read their Chapel Hill science books and complete the chapter reviews by the end of the trip.  In two weeks, Nate was the first to have read his whole science book and completed all of the chapter quizzes and tests!  The girls are not far behind.  There sure is something about materialistic motivation… 

My enjoyment of Gettysburg on Thursday and Friday took me by surprise.  The history is absolutely fascinating.  We started with a great overview by attending a presentation of the electric map.  You go into a large auditorium overlooking a huge topographical map.  A half hour narrative uses embedded colored lights to illustrate troop movements and strategies that occurred during the three days of battle.  What at first I thought would be an outdated and hokey presentation, turned out to be a perfect introduction for our visit. 

The memorial cemetery complemented all of the other war memorials we had seen and discussed on the Washington D.C. Mall.  It was fun to read the Gettysburg address right where Lincoln had uttered it as he dedicated the memorial.  Other aspects of the area we enjoyed included the National Park museum (with its treasure trove of artifacts) and the audio driving tour we took on Friday.  You can buy a CD and listen in your own car as you drive to different significant points of the battlefield. 

We made the short drive from Gettysburg to spend a couple of days in the Baltimore area home of one of my best high school friends, and University of Michigan roommate, Ray Sjaarda and his family.  It was a great time of catching up, while the kids enjoyed their daughters: third grader Allie, and baby Andie (plus the added bonus of their two cats!) 

We all spent Saturday together going into Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium and to walk the waterfront.  Ray finished his tour of Baltimore by taking us to an excellent Italian restaurant for dinner.  (The owner’s mother comes from Italy frequently and brings her recipes…)  Baltimore could easily have been just another big city, but friends make all of the difference!