Welcome to Trips 'n Toys!

Welcome to Trips 'n Toys!

That Day You Realize...

Of all the millions of miles we've logged, and all the really awesome places we've seen with our own eyes, I can't believe I'd never realized how magical our own backyard was the whole time...

For my birthday, my daughter cleared a path through part of our yard. We set up a table and chairs, and even celebrated Ogie's NERFday party down in our new special spot.

But, today, the kids took me farther along the path, and I discovered we actually have small caves, boulder gardens, and a gorgeous rock wall that runs half the length of the backyard itself.

These are the same kinds of things we've traveled great distances to enjoy, but who knew we had such beautiful formations of our own all along!

Surely there is an important life lesson to be learned!

This photo doesn't do it justice, but this is SOOO awesome!

A Brand New Day!

I'm so excited that I finally finished up the albums from our Florida 2011 vacation!

That journey took us down the Gulf Coast of Florida, across the deepest parts of the Everglades, all the way into the Florida Keys, including 3 days in the Dry Tortugas; and then back up the Atlantic Coast of Florida and into Savannah, Georgia before we headed home.

I logged a total of about 95 posts on this trip. At this moment, it's mostly photography, but I still add more commentary, anecdotes, and reviews to these same posts as often as I can.

These posts can be found by clicking here:  Both Florida Coasts, The Keys, and the Dry Tortugas

Or cut right to the chase with:     Key West with Kids   *   The Dry Tortugas   *   The Florida Keys

I might eventually take a stab at writing in an article format; but I just want to make sure any articles I author would be fun and inspirational, and not coming across as bossy and limiting. I'm here to share our stories, but I'm not the type that wants to tell you how you MUST create your own adventures.  It's all about letting YOUR path lead YOU as you feel moved!

In the mean time, the next round of posts I'm adding are from a 7 week cross-country adventure into Southern Utah, and then over to San Diego and back to Tennessee.  There are some fun things along that journey, for sure, so I hope you will check back on our progress as we get those up for your viewing pleasure.

Follow these posts as they are added at: 7 Weeks Out to Southern Utah, San Diego, and Back!

I've got some medical procedures over the next few weeks that are going to prevent a whole lot of real time travels from happening and being posted; but I'll work as steady as I can at filling in some awesome adventures we've already logged.

And by Spring or Summer, hopefully we'll be geared up for another awesome extended "vacation" on which you all can join us!

I'm so excited to be picking up so many readers, and from so many different countries!

Thank you all for checking out Trips 'n Toys!

Subscribe, bookmark, or just check back often!

Safe travels to you all!

Happy Early Valentine's Day!

Happy Early Valentine's Day!

I've got some medical procedures coming up that prevent us from celebrating on Valentine's Day itself, so we decided to go ahead and celebrate tonight.

I'd say we did pretty well!

We all decided to get Ribby a giant teddy after she fell in love with Bear's larger-than-life furry friend on Christmas. Bear's Christmas gift was a 6 foot tall bear from Vermont Teddy Bear. Ribby's new friend is a 48 inch bear hailing from more humble beginnings, but he is still adorable and she showered him with enough hugs and kisses to say he's a welcome addition to our family!

Any excuse for a holiday means Ogie adds another NERF gun to the arsenal. Today's score was a NERF Mega Bigshock. It's basically the NERF Jolt, but for Mega darts. It packs a pretty mean punch for such a compact blaster!

Add a couple balloons, some singing cards, and CHOCOLATE!!!

And I'd say Valentine's Day 2016 was a success!

A Day Off?

I think we're taking a day off today.

It feels like a sit-in-our-pajamas-and-eat-bacon kind of day.

In the mean time, make sure you check out our older blog posts, too. I haven't written a great deal of commentary yet on the older posts, but there are tons of cool photos going up every day from our adventures past.

Most of what I've been uploading lately are shots from our Florida 2011 Trip. This includes a jaunt down the West Coast of Florida, across the Everglades, and then down into the Keys. We camped for a few nights in the Dry Tortugas, which was a MAJOR bucket list item for me.

Join us on our off day for a little bit of clicking, and a whole lot of adventure sharing.

If you feel inclined, feel free to introduce yourself in a comment.

We look forward to getting to meet some of our followers!


Being Silly at Bear Creek - Strunk, KY

My baby girls, just hanging out in the meadow at Bear Creek in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

We were between lunch, and our next hike to see Split Bow Arch.

We went to the area to hang out at Blue Heron, but, unfortunately it was closed due to recent storm damage. But Bear Creek and Split Bow Arch weren't a terrible consolation prize for our trip up there. You can't go too far wrong anywhere in the breathtaking Big South Fork. It really is the most underrated National Park in the entire system. The cliffs may not be as stunning as, say, the Grand Canyon, but they're pretty darned amazing in their own right!

Dairy Bar - Whitley City, KY

We stopped for a fun little lunch and a special dessert at the Dairy Bar in Whitley City, Kentucky.

I'd been here once before, after spending the day driving all kinds of crazy backroads through Tennessee and Kentucky. I never thought I'd find it again, but with the power of the internets, anything is possible. And with the power of GPS, you realize it's only a couple blocks off the main highway through town, US127, and NOT a million miles from civilization.

This 50's style diner is nothing fancy, but the selection of hamburgers, hot dogs, plate lunches, and desserts is inexpensive and they all taste yummy!

Bear had a Dixie Burger, which was a double cheeseburger, with a bun "toasted to perfection" in her exact words. I had a hamburger steak, served with Texas toast and cole slaw to die for. I normally don't even LIKE cole slaw, let alone love it...  But this stuff was dreamy.  Ogie just had a hot dog, and Trillian opted for a regular cheeseburger. We all split a couple orders of fries and some mozzarella sticks.

And you can't NOT have dessert in a place with desserts drawn all over the windows. So, us gals split a Banana Split, and Ogie had a vanilla swirl cone.

We enjoyed the 50's tunes, and the window art added to the overall ambiance. If you're looking for an authentic diner experience that won't break the bank, and you happen to be in this little slice of Kentucky, check out The Dairy Bar!

After all, it was not only enjoyed by Trips 'n Toys, but the folks at Southern Living Magazine recommend it, too!

Rock Climbing at Obed Wild and Scenic River - Wartburg, TN

Some days you just wake up and want to try something so far out of your comfort zone you later wonder what the heck you were thinking.  

We've scaled many a canyon wall out in the deserts of Utah, but this was our first foray into actual rock climbing with all of the equipment. 

Unfortunately, rock climbing is not a winter sport. Not for us any how...  It was just too cold to get a good grip on the rocks and we didn't last very long or get as high as we were hoping.

All in all, it was loads of fun, albeit just enough hard work to necessitate the whole "what was I thinking" exasperation during a few of the tough parts...  And I'm pretty sure there was some foul language shouted by the time we got back to the parking lot. But, hey, if there isn't any profanity involved, you haven't tried your hardest! 

Want to give it a shot? The Obed Wild and Scenic River offers amazing climbing, as well as world class rapids. People come from all corners of the planet to partake of each of these thrill sports. You can come with your own equipment and enjoy all mother nature has to offer here any time on your own.

Or, if you are a beginner like us, consider the Climbing with a Ranger Program offered the first Saturday of each month. All equipment, including shoes, harnesses, helmets, and ropes, as well as coffee and a Ranger Spotter, is provided to you, free of charge. Just wear comfortable clothing and meet at the Lilly Bridge at 11am Eastern Time. If you follow signs to the Climbing Area, you can drop in any time before 2pm. 

Ranger Matt and the team are AWESOME! They were great with encouraging the kids. Safety is a top priority for everyone involved, but as they say, the most dangerous part of climbing is the drive to get to the park. 

I will say, though, the hike up to the cliffs may be very short, but it's definitely not an "easy" hike. Negotiating backpacks, equipment, and a toddler proved to be a little strenuous for me. Ribby normally does most of her own hiking, but the drop offs are steep and the path unforgiving, so I did carry her for this one. Just be mindful of loose rocks and a tangle of tree roots, and you'll probably get there quicker than we did!

We had a great morning enjoying the massive sandstone bluffs, but the cold weather definitely hampered our progress. We WILL be back when it warms up! See ya there!    

Heart of the City Playground - Cookeville, TN

Recently constructed in the northwest corner of Dogwood Park in downtown Cookeville, Tennessee, is the Heart of the City Playground. This 12,000 square foot play area was built with 100% volunteer labor, and subsidized largely on donations.

It is an "all-inclusive" playground, and the play structures are designed specifically to allow specially-abled children to join in on the fun! The larger play structures have ramps, there are supportive swings, and even the merry go round is built into the ground to allow easy and safe wheelchair access. How cool is that?

As far as play structures go, this place is pretty frickin' awesome.

We've been twice this week already. The kids can't get enough.

Sometimes you get the place to yourself, sometimes it gets pretty busy. If you attend this playground, be a responsible patron and supervise your children. Help them be respectful and follow the rules. There are children of all ages and abilities enjoying themselves here, so use the equipment properly and be kind to those around you.

The grand opening on this facility is scheduled for Mid-March. They still have a few details to polish off before then, such as installing more trash cans; and I hope more people decide to use them. The facility itself is impeccably clean and it shows, but I see lots of moms leaving behind water bottles, McDonald's bags, and dirty diapers. There ARE trash cans at the exit. Please use them. Personal carelessness definitely distracts from this gem of a playground.

The remaining capital funds raised by donation are going to be used for a restroom facility closer to the playground itself. If I had to make one primary criticism, it would definitely be that the bathroom is a bit of an uphill hike, particularly if you have young children, kids in the process of potty training, or people in your party with urinary control issues.

This playground is a fantastic addition to the City of Cookeville. The potential for creative and active play is endless! Children in the Upper Cumberland, or those just passing through, should definitely check out Dogwood Park, and enjoy an afternoon in the Heart of the City Playground!