Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Joe Don's Art and Fort Smith Arkansas

Bryn: We started the day saying good-bye to our dear friends Rebecca and Joe Don. We had giving of gifts. Here are matted prints of some of Joe Don's paintings, plus some coasters featuring some of his other works. We'll add a link to his website or blog as soon as we can.

Bret: Today was fun, we went to Fort Smith Arkansas. I wouldn't want to go on the gallows. At first I thought that when you fell it would tear your head off, but it usually just breaks your neck. I learned about the Trail of Tears, and there was a prison there. And we went to Harry's Hamburger Barn for lunch, and I had the best thing on the menu, a French dip sandwich.

Reed: I had an Elvis burger, very Elvis-like with bacon and 'Blue' cheese, but no peanut butter and no bananas. At the Fort, we heard the Ranger tell us one of the convict's last words, so I came up with last words of my own. They would be: "Last words? Yeah, I'll tell you next year!"

Bryn: The boys earned Junior Ranger badges at Fort Smith National Historic Site. Ft Smith is a delightful town with three museums in addition to the fort, it would have been nice to stay over. The Ozark Mountains are covered with lush trees but seem like gentle hills and not mountains. There seemed to be more pieces of tires and re-treads here than any other place I've seen on a road trip. As in Texas and Oklahoma, we see dead armadillos here and are hoping someday to see a live one.
We had to have a change of plans for today, we badly misestimated the time and mileage to get to Murfeesboro from Bartlesville. We had to drop our camping plans for Crater of Diamonds State Park. We came into Little Rock instead amidst a huge thunderstorm which Reed likened to the crash of artillery.
Randy: We had a good dinner at Jordan's BBQ and Catfish, a little place in Little Rock.
Bret: Then we went swimming at the hotel's indoor pool, Reed and I played catch and then we played a game where Reed was a bunny, and if you touched him, he went rabid. The hot tub was called a whirlpool.
Reed: We attempted to make a whirlpool in it.

Monday, June 29 Tulsa

Bryn: Rebecca and I were up way too late talking, so we were very slow in the morning. We left a bit before 2 pm and headed into Tulsa. We met my friend and former boss Duane King at the Gilcrease Museum, he is the new director there. We were privileged to get a sneak peak at his fabulous new exhibit, "Emissaries of Peace: The 1762 Cherokee and British Delegations," scheduled to open on 7/4 and run through 1/10/10. Of course I admired the baskets! This museum is a gem, so when you get to Tulsa, you really must find time to visit.
Reed: While Mom was gone, we went to Braum's for lunch and ice cream, the food was really good.
Bret: Then we went swimming with Joe Don, we played catch with the tennis ball in the pool and we went diving for a penny. It was so much ffuuuuunnn!
Bryn: Next we all had a rendezvous at Gardner's Used Books in Tulsa, where Bret was dwarfed by the Hulk and Reed was surprised by a Jaguar. We followed the bookstore with a dinner adventure. The restaurant we hoped to eat at was closed, so fate brought us to the Mekong River, the best Vietnamese restaurant in Tulsa (yes, there is a small pot to draw from, but the food was delicious).

The Osage Inlonschka Dances at Pawhuska, OK

Sunday, June 28 - Dallas to Pawhuska
Bryn: We left town early and made great time through Oklahoma. We had a late lunch in Tulsa, then on to Bartlesville and Pawhuska where we met our friends Rebecca and Joe Don. It was the last day of the Inlonshka dances for the Osage, and we were invited to watch at the Pawhuska Dance Arbor. No photos allowed, so here is one of us outside of the dance area. Bret showed Joe Don some of his sword moves that he learned at camp. We all went back to Bartlesville and enjoyed the pool late into the night.
Randy: I was really honored to be invited to go, it was quite an enjoyable experience. Thanks for inviting us, Joe Don! Another good note, after day after day of mind-numbing heat, the weather finally broke, it was 93 degrees.
Bret: The Inlonshka Dances take place at Pawhuska, Grey Horse, and Hominy. It was wonderful. It was very interesting and fun to watch. The dances are very important to the family. I did a report on the Osage tribe in school this year, so I know this stuff.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday in Dallas

Bryn: Friday night we drove up to Dallas. Had an interesting rest stop near Jarrell, a town that was devastated by a twister in 1997. The rest stop is complete with storm shelters and a memorial exhibit. We got in late to our hotel, the Staybridge Suites.
Saturday - We went to Irving to the National Scouting Museum, and had lunch at Dickey's, one of Randy's favorite bbq restaurants. Yum! Also stopped at Half-Price Books, a city block-sized bookstore, and of course we came away with a bag of books. Then the boys spent 3 hours in the pool while Bryn did laundry. Easy evening, everything ready for our trip to Oklahoma tomorrow.
Randy: It was good to have a down day and just get caught up on things. We got to update the blog, plus check on work emails. The boys are reading now, ready for bed.

Austin Day 6 - the end of Camp Half-Blood

Bret: On Friday we took a 4 mile hike to the base of the League Operatives, but there was nothing there except the Battery that we lost and Topher's Sword. It was underneath the McKinney Homestead. We also went to the limestone rock shelters.
Reed: We played Capture the Flag too. Then in the afternoon there was the sword tournament.
Bryn: Randy and I packed up camp, then took late showers. We went to town for lunch with cool drinks in air conditioned comfort before returning to McKinney Falls. We arrived in time to watch the sword championships. We gave the boys' counselors some McDonald's certificates.
Randy: The counselors were pretty amazing. They kept up their energy in the brutal heat, they were enthusiastic and friendly all through the last day.
Bret - Harrison and Kelly; Reed - Chelsea and Daniel; plus Master Thomas, Topher, and all of the wonderful folks who made this week possible - THANK YOU! You have made an unforgettable memory for all of us. The Gates of Hades are secure in L.A. now that these demigods are trained fighters.
Photos: Bret and Reed with new friends Jeremy and Brandon. The boys picking their bead from Topher. Each year a half-blood attends camp, he gets a special bead to wear on a necklace. The boys are hopeful to come again in years to come...!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Austin Day 5 -- Finally caught up

Thursday 6-25-09

Camp Half-Blood, Day 4

Reed: At the morning exercise assembly, Master Thomas called Bret and me to the front to explain what happened at our campsite last night with the mysterious lady in black, I scared her away by saying hello. Then the Monster Patrol came by, we told them where she went and they chased after her. Then they came back to check again, and we gave them M & Ms and they left. Later we saw her walking again, and Bret called Master Thomas to report it.

Bret and Brandon: There was phalanx fighting in the morning after marching and exercise. Then we had chariot races and we practiced spear throwing. And there was an obstacle course – we climbed under the table and through the sword maze, and the archers were shooting at us, then we had to pick up a shield and dodge Harrison, the best archer that was in the trees. Then we ran through the sprinklers and had to dodge balls that Master Thomas from the Ares cabin threw at us, and into the kitchen where we were safe and won a ring pop prize. In the afternoon we played Capture the Flag and also had water play.

Brandon had a quest, he went looking for Topher's sword. They found it but it was completely drained of power. We saw the Naiads at the river, but only their eyes peeking out of the river. We also saw two Spybots from the League of Machines and Monsters.

Bryn: I stayed for the morning, enjoying watching all of the activities, talking with Melinda, and with Topher Bradfield, the mastermind behind this camp. Book 3 The Titan's Curse is dedicated to him, so we brought it for him to sign. Brandon came back to camp with us and played with Bret while Reed went with Jeremy for a little cool time at the hotel. We're picking him up soon and will eat in town. 104 degrees today with high humidity. It's been a grueling week for weather. 104 in Calif is hot, but it is a dry heat – I've learned that that makes all the difference!

Austin Day 4

Wednesday 6-24-09

Camp Half-Blood, Day 3

Bret: I went on my quest! We saw a naiad and it wanted us to help save her sister. We tried to help, then it got made when it took Alex, a minor god whose animas got taken away, and we had to save Alex. We had to sacrifice Topher's sword, and then we found Alex on a log, she was bloody and we had to carry her up to camp on a cot, which was heavy. We were successful in our quest.
Reed: while Bret was gone, the Zeus cabin did javeline throwing, discus throwing, and rock wall climbing. This is my counselor Chelsea, she's very nice, she's a daughter of Zeus too.
Bryn: Exciting day followed by night visits by the Monster Patrol. Bret had to call Master Thomas to report the suspicious activity!

Alone at camp today, so I hammered out the Norton Allen pottery article, ready to send to Kim. Also talked with Kianga regarding the basket exhibit. Randy meeting late in Dallas so he can leave earlier to return to us on Thursday.

Austin Day 3

Tuesday 6-23-09

Camp Half-Blood, Day 2

Reed: First we did our stretching and marching. Then we had phalanx training, which was weird because people with shields were charging towards each other, and from a distance it looked like mass confusion.

Bret: It was awesome.

Reed: Then we played Capture the Flag. In one of the games, someone used a phalanx. They thought it would work well but it failed completely and those who did it all got out. Bret's team, the Athena cabin, won every game that day. We played the Bunny Game. We searched for questions based on numbers when you rolled a die. My team won, and we'll get pens at the end of the week for prizes. I went on a quest and found Master Thomas's spear. All of the magical powers were drained completely. We also saw a Spybot. We gave the spear to the Headmaster, he was mad that the powers were drained.

Bret: We played dodgeball, the kids won against the counselors. I got 6 people out.

Reed: everybody got soaked in waterplay. Awesome! Hot!

Bret: Fun!

Bryn: I hammered out the Norton Allen basket article, ready to send to Maggie. Enjoyed the air conditioning in the van, did not enjoy the lack of internet connection.

Randy headed out for Dallas for work.

Austin Day 2

Monday 6-22-09

Camp Half-Blood, Day 1

Bryn: The boys reported to camp in their orange shirts. They were separated into cabins, one for each of the Greek gods. Then then lined up and did calisthenics, just what is needed to loosen muscles before a day of monster fighting! Pictured are some of the special supplies needed by demigods. The camp also has big jugs of cold water, nectar, and Topherade to keep the campers hydrated and primed for battle.

Reed: I wasn't expecting the exercises and marching! We got our swords today.
Bret: We learned the stab, slash, and overhand strike. We played capture the flag.
Reed: We saw Paul vs. Master Thomas in a fight, spear on sword. Paul lost. They pointed out techniques.
Bryn: In the evening, the Monster Patrol stopped by our campsite. The boys were impressed to see their counselors armed with home-made spears, short swords, etc to make sure the perimeters of Camp Half-Blood were secure. Photo of Randy making teryaki chicken and ramen for dinner. The tent was to the left, didn,t get a shot of it. Too hot and humid to sleep in, so we kept misc supplies in it all week. SOOO happy the a/c works in the van, it made sleeping comfortable in this week of record-breaking heat and humidity.
We met our email friends Jeremy and Brandon and Melinda. Melinda kindly gives Bryn a ride back to camp in the morning, and delivers us all back in the hot afternoon. The boys like riding in the way back of the car, something not allowed without seatbelts in California! Only in the campground, of course.We used to do it all the time when we were kids.

Austin Day 1

Sunday 6-21-09

Bryn, Reed and Bret started off the day by walking to the local church for Mass. It was absolutely beautiful, with stenciled ceilings and many large stained glass windows. Then we checked out and went to the Alamo. The man in the parking lot admired the van, which made Randy happy. The line to get into the Alamo shrine, which is inside the original mission church, stretched around the block. We made do with going through the displays in the original long barracks, and a small museum and gift shop building.

Then off to Austin! We arrived at McKinney Falls State Park and were assigned campsite 43. We pitched our tent and drove to town, passing the state capitol building. We headed to Book People, the big independent bookstore that sponsors the Camp Half-Blood program that the boys will be attending this week. We each found something to buy (how could we not, family of readers that we are?)

What we're reading: we finished the audio book “The Iliad for Children” by Arthur J. Church and Homer. Bret's into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Reed is enjoying The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. Randy has The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines – what happens to Cinderella after the happily ever after? Bryn is finishing The Last Olympian, the final book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series – and the reason for our stop in McKinney Falls!

Back in the campsite, we thought we'd check out where the boys would be reporting to tomorrow. Several counselors were there, so the boys had their Claiming Ceremony. Reed is the son of Zeus (Bryn always likes the best), while Bret is the son of Athena (Randy attracts smart females).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sorry about lack of posts

Randy: We haven't posted since we got to Austin because we've been camping at a campground where there's no internet access. We now have access, so expect a deluge of posts tonight or tomorrow. Text first and pictures later

Bret's Choices

Bret -- My two choices are

1. Camp Half Blood because I read the book series about Half Bloods who have one parent who is a Greek God and the other is a normal person. The books are awesome and I really am looking forward to the camp.

2. Lake Champlain because when I was in second grade I had a mystery squad that tried to solve mysteries about mysterious creatures. The American Loch Ness monster lives there. I want to get a picture to prove it's real.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Reed: Yesterday we drove through Roswell, NM, and got postcards and T-shirts. We saw an Arby's with a sign saying that aliens were welcome, lamp posts with alien heads as lights, a McDonald's shaped like an U.F.O, an U.F.O theater, an U.F.O sticking out of a building, and a store selling items with pictures of aliens and U.F.Os on them. I felt other worldly.

Into Texas

Randy: Before I talk about Texas, I'd like to add a few words about Carlsbad Caverns. Like Bryn, I was completely awestruck by the experience. If you've never been, plan to go. If you've been, please leave a comment encouraging others to go. The experience of watching the bats leave at night is incomparable and is truly a multisense experience. Seeing the bats swirl around the cave mouth and then heading into the sunset is beautiful and poignant. The sounds of thousands of wings flapping and the smell of those thousands of bats catch your attention, while sitting in a beautiful stone ampitheater. The tour through the big room, a 1 mile loop trail 750 feet underground, is filled with wonders each seeming better than the last. This is an experience not to be missed.

Now on to Texas. We drove for 6 or 7 hours through West Texas and the scenery was unremarkable. Tonight we are in San Antonio. We had a short walk along the River Walk and then had dinner at a Tex-Mex place up a flight of stairs from the River Walk. On the way back to the van, we went through the main plaza and saw the Cathedral.

Tomorrow it's a brief drive to Austin.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Mexico Day

Bryn: the road photo is typical of the landscape in central New Mexico. Lunch in Roswell among the aliens. Now for my blatant pitch for my brother Kurt's band, Roswell Six, and his latest project. The CD is Terra Incognito, a progressive rock opera that was released the same day as the book it is based on, The Edge of the World by Kevin J. Anderson. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp4BrvltK3I

Then on to Carlsbad Caverns, where the boys earned Junior Ranger badges. Yes, it is worth the trip. The caverns are amazing, the bats leaving the cave at sunset truly incredible. There is no way that photos, especially these, can ever do it justice. Put it on your list of places to go. We were treated to a gorgeous lightning storm on the way home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blowing through Arizona

Bryn: Needles to Albuquerque in less than 12 hours. It was a hard day for me because there are so many wonderful places on this route that I wanted to stop at, but that was not in the plan. We had lunch at the Harvey Cafe at Petrified Forest National Park and admired some rock wood (photo). Yummy Navajo taco! We also had a stop at one of my favorite stores in the world, Richardson's Cash Pawn on Route 66 in downtown Gallup. Had to get some beaded barrettes as I left all of my others at home. Bret was excited when he spotted some hogans, he learned about them in school this year. The boys also liked crossing the Colorado River.
Games = Bret has a DS and Reed has a PSP for the trip. The boys only get 1 hour a day, and they've chosen to have three 20 minute sessions each. That seemed to work well. Randy spent a lot of thoughtful pre-trip time loading his MUVO with lots of music. We were able to listen to Take It Easy by Jackson Browne (yes, he wrote it and the Eagles did a cover version) as we drove through Winslow, Arizona.

Books =Bret is almost done with Harry Potter #6. Reed just finished Monster Hunters, and is reading The Boy Who Dared about a Hitler youth who rebelled against the system. In honor of the locale, Bryn is reading Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman. Audio books = we finished A Study in Scarlett, the first Sherlock Holmes by A.C. Doyle, and also a short book of fairy tales.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And They're Off...

Randy: School was over early today. After spending the last few days packing (that's a story by itself) and getting the house ready for a long trip (You're the best, Bryn), we left home around 3 today and we've arrived safely in Needles, our first stop.

We do not have a real stop planned until Friday at Carlsbad Caverns. Tomorrow, the plan is to drive pretty much straight through Arizona, stop briefly in Gallup, NM and spend the night in Albuquerque.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reed's Destinations

Reed – The two places that I chose are Mall of America in Minnesota because of their 4 story LEGO section. I plan to buy a lot of LEGO kits while I'm there. I'll probably also will see my mom's friend's daughter who takes LEGO building lessons there. I also chose the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio because of the recently put in permanent exhibit dedicated to The Who. The Who are my favorite band and to prove that they are a good band, they're in Rockband (Won't Get Fooled Again), Rockband 2 (Pinball Wizard; my favorite song), and in Rockband Unplugged (for the PSP: Pinball Wizard. There might be more Who songs, I haven't beaten the game yet).

Happy 51st Anniversary today to Joe and Catherine, Reed's grandparents!

The Plan

Randy: Our Plan is to go around the country in a counter-clockwise direction. The map shows our general path. To figure out our path, we as a family each picked two places that we wanted to see and then we worked out a path that connected the dots. I'll let each of the family members explain what their choices were in their own posts.

My first place is Philadelphia -- To see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I've always been intrigued by early American History and while I've been to Boston and the Washington DC area on business and have seen all I want to see there, Philadelphia has never really been on the list of places I travel to, or am likely to travel to for work. So Philadelphia seemed like an obvious choice for me. As an added bonus, while we are in Philadelphia at the Franklin Institute one of Galileo's telescopes will be on display. (Here is a link to info on the exhibit). The reason that I see that as a bonus is that I'm a mathematician by training who works a scientific generalist as opposed to the specialists that most scientists are. So combining my love of history (especially origins of things) with my love of science and Galileo's telescope is a must see. (Thanks to Joanie for pointing out this exhibit to me.)

My second choice is Mount Rushmore. I'm intrigued by the idea of carving a mountain into a sculpture. It's not a place I'm likely to get to except by driving there, so it seemed like a good choice. We also like to visit National Parks as a family so this seemed like a good choice for the family too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bryn vs. Technology

Bryn: This is my trial posting, can I handle this new technology? I just finished Randy's blogging instruction course. We hope to add some interesting posts and photos every few days. Here's a photo from our test campout at San Simeon State Beach along the coast in central California.

Getting Started

Randy: This blog is intended to document the trip of the Potter Family -- Bret (age 8), Reed (age 11), Bryn (Mom) and Randy (Dad). We are spending this summer going on a road trip around the U.S.A.

We are driving in a Ford Sportsmobile conversion van, complete with solar panels on the roof.