Arkansas

After a big lunch in Oklahoma we headed for Fayetteville, Arkansas.  I think this was the part of the trip Max was anticipating the most, a big SEC game.
They certainly know how to do football!  Miles of tailgaters greeted us as we drove toward the stadium.  
We had to park pretty far away but they are a well oiled machine with buses coming to pick up tailgaters and take them to the stadium every fifteen minutes.
When we were planning this trip we bought the tickets before the game time was announced.  For a type A planner like me, it was agonizing waiting until the week before to learn what time we would need to be at the game by.  I was hoping it would not be a morning or early afternoon game.  I was so relived when it would be a six o'clock game.  That would give us plenty of time to stop in Oklahoma. Sometimes things work out so nicely on these trips and other times the best laid plans blow up.
After five hours in the car Max and I were ready to try an Arkansas beer while we tailgated.  Maybe the setting made it taste extra good, but we both loved Arkansas Red.
It was a classic fall afternoon with a soft, warm breeze and rustling leaves.  We played catch and stretched our legs before heading into the stadium.  Hank is my little mini.  :)
Football on the West and football in the Midwest and South is a whole different ball game.  While a team T-shirt and yoga pants or jeans is standard game day attire for us, we felt a little under dressed in Arkansas.  Ladies in red dresses, boots and pearls, with men in slacks and buttons up shirts.  Some people were dressed nicer than when we go to church!  We learned football is a point of pride and people show their pride by dressing up for the occasion.
It was unlike any football game experience we have had.  
At the beginning of the game they had parachuters land on the field to get everyone on their feet.  If Hank winds up in the Ari Force I will know the day the seed was planted.  He looked at me wide eyed with a big old grin and said, "That is what I want to do!"
After the parachuters a huge marching band performance with fireworks and cannons erupted.  Pom-Poms for everyone and every single seat was filled well before the game even started.
The most surprising part was when they called out the players.  Everyone would raise their arms like they were praising the Lord in church and let out a, "Whooooooo."  Then put their arms down and repeat, "Whooooooo" as they raised their arms a few more times.  We all looked at each other like we were in a foreign land.  After the rhythmic chanting they yelled out, "PIG SOOIE!!!"  This ritual would be repeated every time they scored.  It was fascinating to see the intensity of the fans.  We had a great time being HOGS for a day.  But by half time Roll Tide and steamed rolled the Hogs and it was time for us to move out before they became bacon.  Despite how badly they were getting beat, we were one of only a handful of people leaving early.  Hogs are seriously devoted fans.
These games are so big that even though we bought the tickets months in advance and I went to book a hotel at the same time every hotel within a 35 minute radius was sold out!  We had no choice but to drive another hour South to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Our first day was going to be our longest day in the car.  With 6 hours of driving we had traveled through 4 states, eaten a massive meal, and had a near spiritual experience at a football game. :)  It was a busy day even by my standards.  It was time to get all my little pigs in a blanket for some rest.
The next morning we departed with Memphis, Tennessee in our sights.  Little Rock, Arkansas is right in the middle of the four hour drive across Arkansas.  Since it was Sunday, I anticipated the Capital to be closed but we went anyway because we always like to walk around them and see how each state built their Capital.
To our surprise the Capital was open to explore!
This was one of the kids' favorite things we did.  Sometimes unexpected gems become part of the plan.
The building was gorgeous and they loved exploring every stairway and hallway.
  We nearly had the place to ourselves and explored it for over an hour.
We decided the Supreme Court is my sister Mel's next step as a judge.  :)
Some fun facts about Arkansas:
 Walmart was founded there.
In Hot Springs more than a million gallons of water a day flow from 47 springs.
Mountain Valley water claims to be replacing Pierre at fine dining establishments.  It was very tasty and hey if they can sell it for half the price, I am in!
Orangettea soda was started in the 1920s in Arkansas and is now sold exclusively in Walmarts there.  We liked it better than Fanta as it is not as sweet.
What?  Asian food in Arkansas?  Are you nuts?  Riceland in Stuttgart, Arkansas is the world's largest miller and marketer of rice and Arkansas produces far more rice than any other U.S. State.  More soybeans are also grown in Arkansas than anywhere else in the world.
 I figured the best way to try rice and soybeans was to eat at a sushi place and have some rice and edamame. For fun we tried the Little Rock Roll, however the California roll remains the family favorite.
I couldn't agree more with my fortune.
After a fun break exploring the capital and trying a few foods of Arkansas it was time to get to Memphis!


Oklahoma

For the kids' fall break we decided to tackle the heartland of America.  We have been putting this region off because it is so expansive.  At first we were going to rent an RV so the kids could have a little more space to travel our nearly 2000 miles.  However, as I looked at booking RV sights I found that often the RV campgrounds were far from the places we wanted to visit.  Then when we thought about hooking up the electric and sewer late at night, and then needing to drive slowly which would make the drive even longer, we decided to save the RV trip for another time.
 We took off Friday night for 8 days of driving through the Midwest and South.  Starbucks was a must for a our midnight arrival.
 I do a count down to Halloween for the kids each October.  Most days it is just a piece of candy but some days have a scavenger hunt for a bigger prize.  I decided to pack along fun advent treats that related to our trip.  Each morning they had a surprise.  Our first day was going to be our longest drive of 6 hours.  We were headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas to watch the Alabama and Razorbacks game!  Their first treat was Razorbacks gear and a football to play with while we tailgated.  When in Rome, er Arkansas, you have to be a Hog!  Thank you eBay for all of the cheap fan gear.
 As we headed toward Arkansas we had Oklahoma in our sights for lunch.  I made little destination cards and the kids taped them around the car. After each destination we would take it down.
Miami, Oklahoma was the first card.  It is in the right hand corner of Oklahoma.  
For each state I make up a packet with a map of the state, information about when it became a state, the state's population, industry, capitol, official animals and plants of the state, and things that make that state special.  We learned Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state.  Oklahoma also has more miles of Route 66 than any other state.  Miami, Oklahoma was part of the road's beginning and has the longest Main St. on all of Route 66.  It serves as the Gateway to Oklahoma.  Just outside Miami is the last remaining original nine foot wide "Ribbon Road."  Apparently the Oklahoma budget was so tight it could not afford to build the road completely, so rather than covering half of the mileage, they decided to cover half the width.  This historic piece of narrow highway goes for 13 miles on the way to Afton, Oklahoma.  I figured on a road trip of this magnitude, taking a visit to historic Route 66 seemed appropriate.
Oklahoma also has the largest official State Meal.  It consists of chicken fried steak, fired okra, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, girts, corn, strawberries, black eyed peas and pecan pie!  We tried to get as many of the items as we could at Charlie's Chicken.  We knew we weren't in Arizona any more when our entire tray of food was only $22!  We had a feast to fuel us up for the big game ahead.
While we traveled along Route 66 and tried okra and chicken fired steak for the first time, the most novel thing was seeing all the tornado shelters for sale.  That is definitely not something we see in Arizona.
Since we were going to be spending so much time in the car, I borrowed a bunch of movies from the library.  I tried to pick ones for each state.  Twister was perfect for Oklahoma!  The kids were mesmerized.  For in between movies we always compile a driving tract of music and include upbeat songs, favorites, and songs about the states were are visiting.  Carrie Underwood, who happens to be from Oklahoma, sings Blown Away, which tied nicely into all the tornado shelters we saw.  Oklahoma got the short end of the stick on this trip, maybe one day we will try to do Oklahoma and Texas in a little more in depth.  But it was time to roll out to get to the big game in Arkansas!



7th Grade Volleyball

Karlie made the middle school volleyball team again this year.  Karlie loves playing volleyball!
I think I love watching Karlie play volleyball even more than she likes to play it. :)
 Karlie has a lot of sparkle and is always cheering her teammates on.  I think that encouragement led the team picking her as captain for their tournament.
Karlie is a good all around player but likes to dig in the back the best.  This year she tried out the libero position as a defensive specialist.  She is eager to keep working on her serve and sets.  I love it that she wears the same lucky 13 that I wore.
It was a great season and I loved watching her play.  I am hoping for many more seasons of bleacher back aches.

Top 40 Under 40

At the end of September Max was recognized with an award for being one of the top 40 pathologist under 40 years old in the nation!  We got to go to Las Vegas for the award.  The most common remark Max's peers have said was that they were not surprised he was in the top 40 but that he was still under 40 with all he has accomplished!
 We were assuming the ceremony would take all evening but when we learned it would be over by 7, we decided we had to live it up while in Las Vegas!  Pitbull was performing and there were still tickets available.  So we figured that is about as Vegas as we can get.
The show was very Vegas indeed.  We must be getting old or prude because at times it seemed a little over the top even for Vegas.  We had fun dancing and watching Pitbull run around and jazz up the crowd.  But after a long day we could barely keep our eyes open even with music blasting and nearly naked ladies dancing around.  We had dreams of going clubbing after the show and really staying up past our bedtime of 9 pm.  :)  However, were fast asleep by midnight.  We might be under 40 but I think we got to bed more like 80.  I am so proud of Max.  He puts everything he has into being a wonderful husband and father, clearly he does so at work too.  I can't wait to see what he does in the next 40.

Bye Bye Black Bus

The time had come to sell the black bus.  She had carried us safely from babies to teens.  We bought her when we had Hank.  
She had 152K miles but even more memories!