Alabama & Tuskegee National Parks…

Since I am so very far behind, the next few posts will probably be of a concise/overview nature¬† ūüėČ …
The reason that we went to Tuscaloosa and stayed for nearly 2 weeks was so that Vaughn, Eli, and Jake could volunteer on a build crew with Samaritan’s Purse.¬† S.P. is still providing disaster relief in Tuscaloosa, and we really wanted to help!
It was the most incredible experience!  The kids and I actually went in a couple of nights and ate with the crew by invitation from the S.P. cook.  Once the rest of the family had met the other volunteers and the S.P. crew, Bethy decided that she would like to help on the crew too!

My guys (Bethy too) would leave every morning at¬†6:30, which meant parking Vaughn’s truck outside the campground gate each night before it was locked, and my giving them a ride down to the truck each morning so they could leave before the gates were unlocked at 7.¬†¬† Vaughn and the kids had to be in Tuscaloosa (30 min. away) by 7 each morning for breakfast and devotions.¬† ¬†They would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the whole crew each day, having breakfast and dinner at the hosting church, and lunch on the building site after packing their own lunch that morning (everything was set out buffet style and they would just go down the line and put in their lunch bags what they would like to eat that day).¬†¬† After building until about 4 each day, everyone would head back to the church for showers, dinner, and share-time.¬†¬† They would get home about 7:30 each night.
It was an incredible experience for them, one that we would love to repeat!¬† I’m still not going to put up very many pictures, because Eli made me a really great slide-show, and I really need to figure out how to put it on here…¬† It just uploads for hours, and never finishes…¬† :(

My family all really enjoyed the time they spent with S.P.  They made new friends, and the kids even stayed overnight at the church with a very nice youth group that was volunteering that first week.

While my bigs were building, the rest of us hung out at the great campground that we were at.¬† There wasn’t really much to do but pick off ticks, but we liked the down time, the camp hosts were friendly, and the location was beautiful.¬† I will admit tho,¬†that after nearly 2 weeks¬†I was ready to hit the road!¬† :)

While we were there, I noticed another fulltime family was driving through Tennessee, so I FBed her and half jokingly asking if they were coming to visit us…. and they did!!!!
We had a great time meeting the Lende Family, getting to know them a little bit, and getting a tour of their snazzy new travel trailer (which they had just picked up 4 days earlier).

(Emma and Tea were inseperable :)
we were having so much fun, in fact, that I didn’t even take out my camera, and¬†I didn’t get nearly enough pictures of the kids playing together and us gownups gabbing (and eating).

We hope to meet them on the road again!

We did go into town a couple of times for groceries, but the littles and I only really spent one day doing ‘touristy’ stuff…

The Thursday before we left (4/5), we borrowed Vaughn’s GPS, packed a lunch, and hopped in the van for the 2 hour drive to¬†the nearest¬†National Park!¬†¬† It certainly helped that I had had to get up early to run Vaughn and the kids down to the gate by 6:30, because we had a full day planned out – if we were driving that far, we were doing all 3 National Parks in the area!!!
Our first stop was to the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (TUIN).
Tuskegee was the work of a former slave and¬†a former slave owner, and aided by a young teacher named Booker T. Washington, then George Washington Carver, the university soon became a symbol of African American achievement…
The school taught self-sufficiency, and after acquiring some land the school was built piece by piece by the students Рeverything, from the bricks to the nails, was made by the students on the property.
The school provided many outreach services to the local community including the Jesup Wagon, which went through the countryside teaching farmers how to better utilize and care for the land.

The kids did the Jr. Ranger program…

And were super stoked when it was time to say the Jr. Ranger pledge with (super-nice) Ranger Brittney…

because¬†besides earning a badge, they also received patches (the biggest ones they have earned so far, which is apparently a plus…)…

After checking out the Tuskegee Institute, it was time to head down the road about 3 miles to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (TUAI)…

The Tuskegee Airmen NHS is dedicated to preserving the memory of America’s first African American military airmen.

The TUAI has just recently moved into a new hangar out at the Moton Airfield (if you do TUIN first, ask for a written set of directions to the new TUAI visitor’s center).¬† The hangar is dedicated to the workers on the ground that kept the Tuskegee Airmen in the air.¬† There were several planes, parachutes and seats hanging from the ceiling…

displays dedicated to the¬†helpers on the ground like the¬†mechanics…

and mock offices and¬†crew rooms for the kids to check out….

There were ‘phones’ that the kids could ‘call’ ground crew workers on and hear recording describing their memories of working with the Tuskegee Airmen.¬†¬† Of course the kids did the Jr. Ranger program here too…

The park is going through major changes right now as their Jr. Ranger program is being re-written, and a second hangar is under renovation.¬† The second hangar should be open this fall, and will focus on the airmen themselves.¬† There are plans for the second hangar on display, and it looks like it will be a great addition to the park with a P-51 Mustang hanging from the ceiling along with several other aircraft on display.¬† We really hope to go back when the new hangar is open (plus I got chewed out for going to such a cool park when the biggest boys couldn’t go! LOL!)

The rangers at both Tuskegee parks were super nice, informative, and helpful!!!

Both Tuskegee stops were great!¬† If only¬†the weather had been great¬†that day – we were dodging a big storm, so we were glad that both of these parks were mainly¬†indoors.¬† We got drenched on the way into TUAI, and the ranger even took us out a off-limits exit door when we left so that we wouldn’t get quite so wet when we were heading back out to the van.¬† We would have loved to stay longer at each of the parks, and plan to go back to the airmen park sometime, but we were running out of time!¬†¬† If only we had all year to travel! LOL!

Lilla Rose

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  1. Can’t wait to see the slideshow. Once you go with SP once, it gets in your blood. I don’t know how any other organizations can outdue SP.

  2. I’ve gotten behind on my blog reading so trying to catch up with you guys. That was neat that the bigs could be a part of the build.

  3. Hi Sandie!
    It shouldn’t take long to catch up since I am so far behind in my posts.
    I’m so sorry to hear of Jim’s cancer, and I’m glad that you are still in AJ – there are some incredibly gifted cancer docs there. We will be praying for you both…

  4. We were fortunate enough to meet Ret Col Charles Dryden of the Tuskegee Airmen a few years ago. He was one of the nicest men I’ve ever had the privilage of speaking with… I could have talked with him for hours! Can’t wait to visit this museum…

    Wish you could have come through NW Alabama… we would have loved to meet you!

    Kerri in AL :-)

  5. Hi Kerri!
    I would have loved to meet you too! I hate it when I get behind on blog posts, because it always turns out that we miss meeting other people along the way! :( We drove from Tuscaloosa to a campground near Hohenwald last week; it is such beautiful country! We would love to drive more of the Natchez Trace Parkway!

    What a priviledge to meet Col. Dryden! My boys would have flipped to meet a genuine Tuskegee Airman!!! What a special experience that must have been.
    The museums are wonderful – we really, really want to go back when the second hangar opens – if you are planning a future trip down there, call and find out for sure when the airmen hangar will be opened to the public, and get the dates for the grand opening. I would love to attend the G.O. – I’m sure there will be some special activities because of it.

    While we are thankful for all the wonderful things that we got to do in your great state (well, great except for all the ticks! lol!), we are also bummed we had to miss so much too! We hope to do the east coast and then the south east FIRST next winter :) Maybe we will have the opportunity to meet then. I would love it! Thanks for the note Kerri!
    :) dana

  6. My son and his homeschool friends were able to spend about an hour talking with Col Dryden, and Evan also got his autograph on the box of his Tuskegee Airmen GI Joe! We have his book, too, which is very inspiring. I was so very impressed with the way he conducted himself with the young people… He was so genuine, kind and attentive. So many adults do not give children the respect they deserve, but Col Dryden certainly did!

    I truly hope that we are able to meet your family someday! We only live a few miles from the Trace, and it is a beautiful drive. I know your family would love our Cane Creek Preserve here in Colbert County – it is awesome!

    But yes… the ticks are NO fun! We haven’t seen any yet, but they are always worse following a mild winter like we had this year. :-(

    Hope you have a great week!

    Kerri in AL :-)

  7. The last church we pastored before going on the road was in the next town to Tuskegee. It is lovely area with lots of history. Between there and Montgomery…you can get most of AL history, haha.

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