Louisiana To Florida

On January 22 we left Arkansas and drove south into Louisiana. Our whole family are big fans of the show “Duck Dynasty” so we wanted to explore West Monroe a little bit.  We camped there for a few nights and had fun checking out some of the places you see in the show.  Our first night there we went to Excalibur Family Fun Center which is like a Chuck E. Cheese….you use tokens to play games and you eat mediocre pizza.  It was pretty fun though!  One morning we picked up donuts at Haskell’s Donuts and they were delicious!!!  A trip to West Monroe wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Duck Commander warehouse and then on Sunday we attended White Ferry Baptist Church which is also where the Robertsons go.  We did see quite a few members of their family there which was pretty cool, but we liked the church even more for what it was….very welcoming, enthusiastic in worship and a Bible preaching church.  We would definitely go back if we are ever in that part of Louisiana again.


Excalibur Family Fun Center


Our family at the Duck Commander Warehouse  (Ben doesn’t usually wear Lance’s white t-shirt, but diapers don’t always do their job and then it becomes necessary to wear other clothes!)


Lance didn’t actually talk to Willie….it just looks like they are best of friends!

After leaving West Monroe we crossed into Jackson, Mississippi to see their capital. We only stayed one night there and then went back into Louisiana.  We headed south to Baton Rouge for a stop at the capital.  There was quite a bit of construction going on near the capital building so we ended up parking with the camper a couple of blocks away at a spot that happened to be right in front of the governor’s mansion.  We walked as close as we could to the capital and did the picture thing and then started back to the car.  The kids had lots of energy from being in the car for a few hours so they were running all around on the grass and chasing birds.  Next thing we know Ben is playing and climbing on the fence that surrounds the governor’s mansion.  Within about one minute we had secret service vehicles boxing in our car and camper and three guys in black suits asking us who we were and what we were doing.  After answering their questions and them realizing that we were not a threat (except to peace and quiet!) they got a little less stern and asked us about our trip.  We left there with two bags of freshly made chocolate chip cookies from the governor’s chef which we enjoyed while driving to New Orleans.


The Governor’s Mansion in Louisiana


The would-be intruder

We camped just outside of New Orleans and were very excited to have Lance’s parents and sister meet up with us there. We looked forward to exploring the city together.  First we did some driving by the pretty historic houses and then stopped to walk through an old cemetery.  After that we parked downtown and walked around the French Quarter, Bourbon Street and Jackson Square.  We really enjoyed listening to the street musicians, especially Ben….we could hardly pull him away.  Joe even sat down and played his tuba for awhile….he ended up with $3 in his Zeeland Chix hat when he was done.  We ended our time downtown with beignets  from the famous Café Du Monde .  It was a delicious way to end our day in New Orleans.



Elise walking through the cemetery


Three generations of Kornoeljes….so cute!


Our favorite musicians


Our family on Bourbon Street


This guy had Ben, Elise and Abby dancing


Joe playing his tuba with Sam holding the music


Aunt Alecia with Ben saying HI to the horses


The whole crew at the end of the day

On Friday we went on a swamp boat ride. We saw a few alligators out in the wild, lots of turtles , pretty birds and some pretty big fish.  The captain of the boat took out a huge snapping turtle shell and alligator head for everyone to touch and pass around.  Then he pulled out a real alligator that we all had a chance to hold.  Ben was so exicted…..I’m pretty sure that alligator never got so many hugs as he did from Ben that day!  Sam was having the time of his life too, later he told us that the boat ride was his favorite thing so far on this road trip!


Starting out on the boat ride


There’s an alligator in the water right in the middle of the picture


Ben caught feeding the alligator cheetos


I would guess that this alligator has never felt so loved!


Sam in his glory!


Elise helping Ben wear the snapping turtle shell

Well, Mardi Gras was just getting started in New Orleans so it was time for those of us with young children to get out of town!  We drove to Mobile, Alabama for one night and then on to Montgomery the next day to see the capital.  We really wanted to teach the kids a little about civil rights while there.  Lance did a short history lesson as we drove to Selma, Alabama.  We all learned a lot about Bloody Sunday and the courageous people there who got back on that bridge afterwards and bravely walked across.   ***Just as a sidenote….Lance and I watched the movie “Selma” to preview it and then watched it again with Joe and Abby.  Even though it has some bad language and some very violent scenes, we felt it was a great way for them to see what life in the south would have been like for black people back then and also how important MLK and the march were in the fight for civil rights.


While in Mobile we went to Lambert’s for dinner….home of the throwed rolls


Lance ordered frog legs for everyone to try….by the look on Sam’s face I think we can assume that he was a little grossed out!


The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama


Walking across the bridge


Sam and Elise checking our a mural at a memorial park near the bridge

After leaving Alabama it was time to enter the Sunshine State….Florida! And, boy were we ready for that!!  We stayed one night in Tallahassee to see the capital and then headed down to Orlando.  Lance’s parents and sister stayed with us for a few more nights there.  Before they headed home we were able to meet up with Lance’s brother and his family.  They happened to be on a short vacation to Clearwater, Florida.  Before meeting them for supper we went to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for the afternoon and had fun seeing sea turtles, otters and sting rays….but the highlight was seeing the dolphins.  Winter and Hope are the inspiration for the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.  We had fun watching a show with a different dolphin and left there A LOT more wet than when we arrived!


Rosemary on the dolphin


Ben was loving this turtle


Hope is the dolphin on the left, Winter is on the right


Sam asked them to make the dolphin splash….and boy did he get wet!!


Touching the sting rays


Lovely cousins

The next morning we said good bye to Rich, Barb and Alecia and they started their drive back to snowy Michigan.

On Friday morning Elise woke up with an extra spring in her step and very quickly was ready for the day….her motivation???? It was her special day, the day Lance was taking her to the Magic Kingdom for her Christmas present!  They were there all day and managed to fit in quite a bit….a trip to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique to have her hair and make-up done, riding all of her top choice rides and having dinner with Cinderella and her princess friends in the castle.  She came home exhausted, but so very happy!



At the beginning of her wonderful day


Elise enjoying the rides at the Magic Kingdom


Elise and Cinderella

The next week was a really nice one. We had gotten a good deal on a house for rent in Kissimmee so we moved in there on Saturday.  What a nice treat to have a break from trailer living and we were all very content to just retreat to different areas of the house and enjoy some solitude (a very rare thing in the camper!).  Lance needed to fly to Kansas City for much of that week for a customer visit. The kids and I missed him, but  just enjoyed the house and pool in sunny Florida without him.  We sure were glad to have him back home at the end of that week though!


Enjoying the pool at our house for the week


Reading books together


In the camper we don’t really bake because the oven doesn’t cook very evenly so it was really nice to make some chocolate chip cookies…..this guy couldn’t wait!

On Saturday, February 13th, we had to leave the house and move back into our camper.  We stayed one more night in a campground near Orlando and then started driving south.  I’ll tell you all about it next time…….

New Mexico & Beyond

After Tombstone, on January 6th, we drove east to Las Cruses, New Mexico. We had intended to start with Santa Fe and then head  south, but it was cold and snowy in northern New Mexico so we didn’t want to pull the trailer around up there.  While camping in Las Cruses Lance and the four older kids went to White Sands National Monument.  It’s a unique spot with rolling hills of only white sand.  They brought some sleds and did some sledding on the big hills.  When they came home they were excited to tell me all about it, they had a great time! https://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm


They even saw a rainbow while at White Sands National Monument


Abby and Elise ready to go!


Lance got in on the sledding too!

We ended up leaving our camper in Las Cruses while we drove up to Santa Fe.  We arrived in Santa Fe on January 8th and checked into a hotel for the next couple of nights.

The next day was a special one for Sam…..it was his Christmas present activity and he was VERY excited! That boy loves snowboarding and, even though he hasn’t gone very many times, he has no fear and is pretty good at it.  He and Lance took a shuttle to a ski area in the mountains about an hour away and spent the day together there.  They came back that night pretty tired, but with lots of fun stories and memories.




Sam and Lance had a great day on the slopes together!

The next day we stopped to see the capital and drove around a historic area of Santa Fe. We had hoped to spend a couple of days exploring the old town, but with the yucky weather we settled for the view from our  car window.  We headed south, back to Las Cruces to pick up our camper, but stopped on the way in Truth or Consequences.  It’s a small town between Albequerque and Las Cruces and we were intriqued with the name.  Turns out the story behind the name isn’t as interesting as we assumed it would be, but it was still a nice place to stop and stretch our legs.IMG_8440IMG_8444

Some of the adobe buildings we saw in Santa Fe


Now our kids have been to Truth or Consequences 🙂


After hitching up the trailer we kept driving into the night. We don’t drive somewhere new every day, but when we do we like to keep the time in the car to around 4 hours or less.  That way we have much of the day left to enjoy where we are and it also means we don’t have to travel with crabby kids as often!  This time, however, we just kept on driving.  If you’ve ever driven through Texas it doesn’t take long to realize…..hey, this state is HUGE!!  Since we didn’t leave with the camper until bedtime and the babies were falling asleep anyway we decided to just keep on trucking.  Lance even got us a few hours past our goal for the night and we finally pulled over around 3:00am.  Morning came quickly, but it sure was nice to know we would be arriving in San Antonio much earlier than we had anticipated.

We stayed at a nice KOA in San Antonio. Our site was right across from the playground and not too far from the downtown area and all the things we wanted to see.

I had read about some unique restaurants in the San Antonio area and that first night in town we decided to try one of them.  Chacho’s & Chalucci’s is a Mexican restaurant, but what makes it really special is the humungous indoor playground that kids can explore while you wait for your food.  I had also read that they have a big indoor soccer field, but that was not open while we were there.  Abby, Sam, Elise and Ben all were kept busy playing there before we ate and after we were done.  One thing they are famous for is their nachos plate.  It’s the largest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen piled high with chips, meat and different kinds of cheese.  Lance and Joe ordered one to split for dinner, but they could barely make a dent in it.


I think Rose’s eyes were bigger than her stomach!

The next morning we went to LuLu’s Café where they are famous for their gigantic cinammin rolls.  Each one is 3 ½ pounds of delicious soft roll and gooey frosting.  We ordered two for all of us to share and, once again, there was a lot left.   http://www.luluscafeinsa.com/


This is all for me?  Thanks guys!


Ready to dig in!

After breakfast (or maybe I should call it The Sugar Coma) we went to the Alamo and Riverwalk. We had been listening to a book on CD about Davey Crockett on the way to San Antonio so it was especially interesting to then go and see where the battle took place and picture the fight going on.  We didn’t spend a lot of time on the Riverwalk since Ben and Rose were getting pretty cranky and tired.  We instead drove around a bit through the historic district and admired the big old houses.  After that we went to San Jaun’s Mission which is part of a National Park that connects five missions together with trails.  This ended up being our favorite site for the day.  The ruins were really cool to walk through or play tag in, both of which happened while we were there.  Since it was such a nice warm and sunny day we spread out a blanket and had some snacks and soaked up the sunshine.  There was also a little chapel which is still used for services to this day and we were able to check that out too.     http://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/san-antonio-missions-national-historical-park


Our family in front of The Alamo.  You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so that’s why we don’t have very many.


Rose and me in front of the chapel at San Juan’s Mission which is part of the Missions National Historic Park


Ben….I guess he’s waiting for church to start 🙂

Now, when you see where we went for supper that evening you are going to think that all we did in San Antonio was eat, eat, eat….. It just so happens that along with huge plates of nachos and gigantic cinnamon rolls there are also pizzas bigger than we had EVER seen!  At Big Lou’s Pizza they are known for their BIG pizzas and we had to check that out so we ordered one pizza for all of us to share.  As we waited at our table we saw a few getting brought out to other tables and we watched in amazement as the pizza took over the table with little room left for plates or drinks.  Finally it was our turn and the 42 inch (yes, that’s right…42 inches!!!) pizza was brought to our table.  The looks on our kids’ faces were priceless!  We all dug in, but just like with the nachos and the cinnamon rolls….we had a lot left.  In this case we took home more than half of the pizza.  That capped off our adventures for the day, we were tired out and headed home to bed.    http://biglouspizza-satx.com/


That’s a BIG pizza!!

After San Antonio we drove north, to Waco. I had been eagerly anticipating this stop because I am a huge fan of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper” and Chip and Joanna Gaines.  They have a store in Waco that I couldn’t wait to check out called Magnolia Market and The Silos.  We got to Waco on Thursday, January 14 and decided to drive by Magnolia, even though we were planning on me going for a longer period of time the next day.  We had fun looking around a little bit and even though we thought we would run into Chip and Joanna at any second, we never did!  After that we took a drive out to Crawford, Texas which is where President George and Laura Bush’s ranch is.  We were able to drive up to the gates and that’s about it….from there Lance had a great chat with the secret service agent manning the gate.


Lance by the Crawford, Texas sign


Lance and his new friend….the secret service agent

The next day Abby and I set out for a fun day of shopping at Magnolia!! We happened to be there when they were having a “scratch & dent” sale so they opened up a large storage area filled with those items.  What fun we had looking through things and finding our treasures!  Abby bought a small glass candle holder and I bought a hanging chalkboard, various small vases with a tray, a very pretty butter dish and a couple of t-shirts.  After checking out, we headed outside to their lawn area.  There are several food vendor trucks set up there and lots of picnic tables.  It was a beautiful day so we shared a crepe while enjoying the sunshine.  After we left there we drove to HARP design.  We didn’t go inside, but just stopped and took a couple of pictures.  What a fun day we had!!   https://magnoliamarket.com/


The warehouse area where the sale was going on


Some pics of the regular store


Abby and me at Magnolia


After doing some shopping


Our crepe and some of the food trucks in the background


The garden area at Magnolia was pretty too

We drove to Dallas next. I stayed home with Ben and Rose since they had colds, but Lance and the other kids got to go to church at Stonebriar Community Church which is where Chuck Swindoll is a pastor.  Lance said it was a little surreal hearing a voice that’s so familiar and finally putting it with a face.  http://www.stonebriar.org/home/

From Dallas we stayed one night in Texarkana, which is where we were all excited to meet up with my mom and dad….Yeah!!!! They had been visiting my brother and his family in Colorado so it was a spur of the moment idea for them to meet up with us and I’m so glad they did!

We caravanned together to Arkansas on Monday, January 18th . Our first stop was at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.  This had been on Sam’s wish list of stops since before we left last June!  That boy is completely in his element when panning, digging, or chipping away rock with a hammer all in search of gems, gold or just pretty stones.  If you find any diamonds at the state park you may keep them and there is a list of notable finds that was pretty impressive.  Sam’s hopes were high! It was a cloudy and very cool day to be there.   All of the other kids were done after about 45 minutes….but not Sam!  He spent about 5 hours hunting for diamonds and closed the place down.  Unfortunately, we left empty handed.  Sam was disappointed, but still had a very good day, now he says he wants to move to Arkansas when he grows up so he can go there whenever he wants!  http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/


Sam out there busy with his pick ax


Sam, Lance, Rosie the dog and my dad all on the hunt for diamonds

Our next capital to see was Little Rock. Our camper needed some repairs so we had a great excuse to stay in a hotel.  My parents stayed at the same one and we had fun in Little Rock together.  They left on Thursday to head back to Michigan.


Abby, Elise and my mom playing Ticket To Ride at the hotel


Grandpa playing trucks with Ben


My mom and sleepy Rose

Abby and I enjoy the show “19 Kids and Counting” and she so badly wanted to meet them. After her emails and letters went unanswered we decided to just drive to Tontitown and see what we could see.  It was 3 hours away from where we were staying in Little Rock and Abby and I enjoyed our own mini road trip.  We found the Duggar’s house and could even see them building a tree house.  Unfortunately, we didn’t run into any Duggars while in town, but it was good time with my {little} girl.


The Duggar’s house

So, I know I’m VERY behind on these updates…I’m writing about what happened in January and it’s already the beginning of April, but I am determined to catch up in the next few weeks!! Just you watch!