From Florida to The Smokies

We left the Florida Keys on Wednesday, March 16th and made our way north to Sarasota, Florida.  We stayed at a fun campground there called Sun’n’Fun for a couple of nights.  While there we were excited to meet up with Lance’s cousin and his wife and also his aunt and uncle who spend their winters near there on Anna Maria Island.  Ross (Lance’s cousin) is an expert Pickle Ball player and Lance and Joe got to watch him in a match he played at the campground.  Later that afternoon the whole family went to the pool and had fun visiting with Ross and Monica, Uncle Russ and Aunt Chris and Monica’s extended family.  The kids had a great time swimming in the giant pool on such a hot, sunny day.  Later we took a drive to Venice beach to look for shark teeth, but left there empty handed….much to Sam’s disappointment.  We had some dinner and then drove out to Anna Maria Island to end the day with another family visit.  We got to see Uncle Russ and Aunt Chris’ nice condo on the island and watch the sunset from the beach.  Lance and the boys took off after that with Ross and Uncle Russ for some pickle ball lessons.  They had a great time learning the rules and playing some practice games….now they are hooked!  The girls and I went for a walk with Monica and Aunt Chris to get some ice cream.  The boys had the healthier end to the evening, but ours sure was tasty!!!  We said good bye to Ross and Monica and Uncle Russ and Aunt Chris after that, but we sure did enjoy our short visit with them.  Thank you for the hospitality and pickle ball lessons, we hope to see more of you when we get back from our trip!


Joe and Elise with Uncle Russ

On Saturday we drove to Jacksonville and spent a couple nights there. We had intended to only stop for the night and then keep moving, but the campground we ended up at was so much fun we stayed an extra night.  The kids had a blast on the little lake there that had lots on inflatables on it.

On Monday we said good bye to Florida. We spent six weeks in the Sunshine State and enjoyed every minute, but it was time to see what Georgia had to show us.  Our first stop was Fort Frederica National Monument on Saint Simons Island, which was on our way to Savannah.  We had such a great time at the fort.  Their junior ranger program is fabulous!  The kids each received a satchel with different tools, maps and a workbook to use in solving puzzles and completing the scavenger hunt.  It was an excellent way to explore the fort and learn about life there in the 1700’s.


This crazy guy was crazy happy to be out of the car and enjoying the spring weather!!


Elise and Abby ready to begin the scavenger hunt at Fort Frederica


Joe and Ben walking to the fort ruins…what good buddies they are even though there’s 11 1/2 years between them!


Ben, Sam and Joe on one of the old cannons


I love to see the Spanish moss swaying in the breeze


Sam…one of the newest junior rangers of Fort Frederica National Monument


Lance and Rose


The visitors center was a really fun place.  There were colonial games they could play and a large chest of clothes they could try on.  Ben loved the soldier clothes, but he’s too silly to pull off that somber soldier look!

We got to Savannah that Monday evening. The next day we took a trolley ride around the city.  It was a fun way to learn the history of the city and some fun stories and trivia too.  Lance and I enjoyed the trolley ride along with the four older kids, but I don’t think we will do that again with Ben and Rose….they got too wiggly and (believe it or not) didn’t really care about the history of Savannah!  I loved the beautiful historic buildings and the many parks and squares where people can enjoy a little bit of green in the middle of the city.  After getting back to the trailer we took off for Charleston, South Carolina.  We arrived later that evening and set up camp in a KOA near the city.


Joe and Rose on the trolley ride


The kids and me on the trolley.  It was a fun way to see Savannah!

On Wednesday we went to Boone Hall Plantation. We had a little homeschool lesson on slavery in the south and also the Underground Railroad while driving there.  Then we learned more about the living conditions of slaves while at the plantation.  There was a row of sparsely furnished slave houses that you could go into that helped us understand what things would have been like 150 years ago.  We also took a tour of the plantation mansion.  We enjoyed seeing the beautiful house, but were a little disappointed that the tour only showed you four rooms and there was a lot more house left that you couldn’t see.  It was a gorgeous spring day and we wandered a little around the grounds too.  We saw a small field of cotton, horses grazing and the flower gardens.  In the end, it was a very nice day and we had fun, but we wouldn’t go back to that same plantation.  The kids (and us too) did learn a little more about slaves’ lives so all in all it was a success.  We stayed near Charleston for a couple more days and Lance and I even had the opportunity to go on a date night in the city. We had a nice evening walking downtown a little and through a street market before enjoying a delicious dinner.


It’s pretty impressive to drive up the driveway lined with these majestic oak trees.


Abby and Joe in front of the plantation house


Ben loved climbing on the trees


The row of slave houses


This one was set up as it might have looked for the slave’s church


Elise with her handful of cotton that she just picked


A quaint street in Charleston that Lance and I saw while walking around the city

On Saturday, March 26th, we drove to Columbia, South Carolina to see the capital.  It was a delightful day and the flowers were out in full bloom, especially the rhododendron and the azaleas.  The capital was one of the prettiest ones we’ve seen and across the street was an Episcopal church.  Some of the church members were decorating the inside and outside for Easter (which was the next day) and they welcomed us in to see.  The church was gorgeous, even without all of the Easter Lilies they were placing around the church.  The older gentleman who was sharing some interesting information with us about the church’s history was so sweet.  He told us about the stained glass windows and how they depicted Jesus’ life and also some of the Apostles.  He showed us what was original and what had been added on over the years since the church was built in 1846.  My favorite story that he told us was about the Civil War.  We had asked if the church had been damaged in the war and he said that no, it hadn’t because General Sherman, who was the general for the Union army was Episcopalian so he made sure to keep his cannons aimed in a different direction than the church.  When the Union army did enter Columbia, though, they sought out the First Baptist church.  They wanted to destroy it because that is where the unanimous vote for South Carolina to secede from the Union had taken place.  When they arrived at the church they were directed by the Baptist sexton to a church a few blocks away which happened to be the Methodist church.  So the army continued on to what they believed was the Baptist church and set fire to it…..problem was, they were mistaken and had actually just destroyed the Washington Street Methodist church.  The First Baptist church building survived the war just fine, but it did so because of a lie.  Anyway, I found the stories quite fascinating and I wished we could have stayed longer, but it was time to take off for Raleigh, North Carolina.


Spring has sprung in South Carolina!


Can you find the Rose hidden in the Azaleas??


Ben was having fun hiding in the flowers and chasing Robins!


Trinity Church, the church was established in 1812 and the building was erected in 1846


Some of the beautiful stained glass windows


And the beautiful sanctuary

In Raleigh we stayed at a campground outside of the city. The next morning we were looking forward to attending an Easter service at Southbridge Fellowship which is where a high school friend of Lance’s is the pastor.  A very unique thing about Southbridge is that they meet in a movie theater.  The nurseries and children’s classes were all in different theaters as well as the service.  They must have an army of volunteers each Sunday to set things up for church and then to have it all removed in time for the theater to open after lunch to show movies.  It was a great service remembering Jesus’ incredible sacrifice for us by dying on the cross and then also celebrating his glorious resurrection.

After church we stopped by the North Carolina state capital building. It looked very much like the one in Columbia, South Carolina, but it was a drizzly day so we weren’t able to enjoy exploring the outside like we had hoped.  From there we headed to dinner….no traditional ham dinner for us this year.  We headed to a Japanese Hibachi restaurant and had a fun meal there.  After dinner we picked up the camper and drove to Asheville, North Carolina.

We only stayed in Asheville for one night. On Monday Joe, Abby and I got to go to Biltmore Estate.  We did the self-guided tour and very much enjoyed it.  The mansion is very impressive with over 200 rooms (we weren’t allowed in all of them) and beautiful antique furnishings.  We wandered around the main floor with its impressive formal dining room, tapestry room and the library, which was my favorite room.  We went upstairs to see the bedrooms of the owner and his wife along with some of the many guest rooms, each with their own bathroom which was quite extraordinary for that time.  Then we headed to the basement where we saw the servant’s rooms, kitchen, bowling alley and indoor swimming pool.  We had a wonderful lunch in the restaurant they have in the former stables and then enjoyed a walk through some of the expansive gardens on the estate.  The spring bulbs were in bloom and we even stopped to smell the hyacinths on our way to the conservatory.  It was a great day and we left there very tired from all of the exploring.  I also really enjoyed hanging out with just Joe and Abby, it doesn’t happen very often that we can do that and I loved getting to talk and laugh with just them…..they’re pretty fun kids!


Me with my fellow tourists in front of the Biltmore Estate


The Library….it was so impressive and impossible to capture the grandeur in only one photo.


The cheerful conservatory…this is where I would spend many hours during the winter time if I lived there!


The formal dining room.  There was also an exhibit set up on wedding dresses in the movies so almost each room had a display set up showing some of the gowns that were from movies depicting times gone by.


The indoor swimming pool.


Some of the pretty spring flowers in bloom that we saw while walking around the gardens.


The stables turned restaurant where we had a fabulous lunch!

We left the Biltmore later in the afternoon and then we all headed out for Gatlinburg, Tennessee across the Smokey Mountains. It was a nice drive and we could see spring popping along the way in new leaves and flowering trees.  We got to our campground around supper time and right away the kids set off to explore and they were not disappointed.  There was a really cool playground, a hammock grove and a nice creek right behind our campsite.  Ben was especially enthralled with the creek….he loved to watch the water and throw rocks into it, one after another.  He was having so much fun that it was hard to get him to stop when it was dinner time.


The boys playing by the creek behind our campsite

On Tuesday, March 29th, we drove to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We headed right for Cade’s Cove which is an 11 mile one way loop through a valley and settlement from the 1800s.  As you drive you go past many historic buildings and the best part is that you can stop and go inside any of them that you want to.  We first came to an old log cabin that was about ¼ mile off of the road.  We parked the car to take a walk to the cabin and check out the inside.  After we did that we headed to the creek that was behind the cabin and this is where we spent a good chunk of time.  Lance and the older boys had lots of fun hauling logs and rocks to the water to build a dam, Abby and Elise pretended to be Indians in the woods, Rose crawled all around and got nice and dirty and Ben liked to see how many times he could cross the creek on logs and rocks without getting wet (not very many!!).  We finally left there and walked back to the car to continue our ride.  The next place we got to was a small church.  Lance and Rose stayed in the car since she needed a snack, but the other kids and I went into the church where they proceeded to pretend to have a mini church service.  After that we wandered through the cemetery behind the church and read many of the gravestones.  When we got back into the car after that we were all getting a little tired so we drove for a while and just looked from the car as we passed old homesteads and buildings.  We had been told to keep an eye out for bears, but we didn’t see any of those.  We did spot some wildlife though….a few deer in a field and also a wolf.  We were pretty excited about that!  After we had had a little rest we came upon a larger house and barn that looked pretty neat so we had to get out of the car there.  The house was a bit bigger than any we had seen yet on the loop with more rooms and a more spacious upstairs.  There were a couple small outbuildings and then a really cool cantilever barn where the kids climbed the ladder and explored the barn loft.  By this time it was supper time and we had two babies who hadn’t taken naps yet that day so we needed to leave the park and head for home, but it sure was a beautiful spring day to see the park.  I would love to go back one day, I’m sure there’s much more to see!


The first log cabin that we stopped at


Elise posing by the creek


Sam climbed a few trees!


Joe and Sam building the dam….Ben makes a great supervisor!


The small church we stopped at.  They actually still use the building today for special services.


Ben attending an impromptu church service


Joe and Ben in front of the Cantilever barn


Ben and Rosemary on a pretend ride in the wagon


Ben found a little outbuilding that was just his size


I had to post this pic….you can’t tell, but Sam is actually soaking wet!  This was just after he called to Lance and me “Hey Mom, hey Dad!!  Look!  Watch this!!”  and then he proceeded to use the branches over the creek as monkey bars until one broke at the most inopportune time and he landed on his back in the very cold water!  I’m so glad that he had told us to watch so that we happened to see it all.  It was hilarious and we were all (including Sam!) laughing about it for quite a while!

One thing Gatlinburg is not lacking are pancake restaurants.  It’s kind of a specialty there so of course we had to give one a try.  After reading some reviews we chose The Pancake Pantry and had a delicious breakfast.  Everyone enjoyed their pancakes and crepes.  After a hearty breakfast we found a place for Lance and Joe to get tattoos…..don’t worry…..they were henna tattoos!


Ben loved being near the creek whenever possible!


Breakfast at The Pancake Pantry


Joe’s henna tattoo of a cobra

On Wednesday we tried something new and a bit crazy!! We went to a place called the Outdoor Gravity Park and Lance and the four older kids all went for rides down a big hill in what looks like giant hamster balls.  They had a blast and would have done it again and again, but the line was too long so long we couldn’t wait around.  I got video of each of them rolling down the hill and Joe, Lance and Abby were also each holding a GoPro to capture what the ride was like from the inside.  It looked like a pretty crazy ride…next time I will join them!


Lance, Joe, Abby, Sam and Elise after their zorb rides down the hill.  They are wet because there is water inside the balls to keep them from getting too hot.

On Thursday we left the camper in the campground near Gatlinburg and drove a few hours north to Lexington, Kentucky. Our kids were under the impression that Lance had an unexpected meeting come up with a customer in Lexington so we all were going with him to enjoy a night in a hotel…..what was really happening had been in the works for weeks and we were excited to spring a great surprise on them!  We stopped in Frankfort, Kentucky to see the capital first and then drove to Lexington and checked into the hotel.  We ordered pizza and we waited…and waited….and waited.  Soon after the pizza came we had a knock on our hotel door and when the kids answered it the joyful squeals started!  Our very good friends, the Harrelson family, met up with us there for the night and we were all elated to see them.  Their four kids’ ages match up pretty perfectly for Joe, Abby, Sam and Ben.  After lots of hugs we had some pizza and then the kids split up….boys in one family’s room and girls in the other for their sleepovers.  Our four older kids didn’t get much sleep that night, but they definitely had their fill of fun!  The next day, after some breakfast and basketball and pickle ball and lots of chatting, we hugged our good byes, they resumed their spring break travels and we headed back to our camper in Gatlinburg.


Enjoying some playtime outside after their sleepovers


Elise and Gretta


Abby and Bekah


All of the kids together…we love spending time with the Harrelsons and have gone on trips together before.  When we are all together we call our group The Kornelsons!

One thing we had been looking forward to since the beginning of the trip last June was going zip lining in the Smoky Mountains. When it came right down to it I opted to stay with Ben and Rose….someone had to and, let’s be honest, it sounds a little scary!  Lance and the four olders had a great time on their zip lining adventure.


Abby ready for her turn


Sam zipping away!


They survived!!!

That concludes our adventures from Florida all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains….from there we headed to Atlanta and beyond.


5 thoughts on “From Florida to The Smokies”

  1. Enjoyed reading about your adventures. I just feel like packing my bags and traveling. My parents used to stay at SunNFun. Enjoy your travels!

    1. Thanks Sue!
      Yes, SunNFun was a great place! I can see why it’s a go to place for snowbirds, but also families on spring break! So much to do and right near so many great Florida beaches…loved it!

  2. My aunt and uncle live in Columbia, SC, and have attended that Baptist church for many years– I’ve visited it a few times. ( my grandmas funeral was there). It’s a beautiful city.

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