Arkansas Vacation Part 3: Shenendoah Valley

After many fun days, we reluctantly left on Monday morning, a week after we left on our journey the prior Tuesday. It was sad to leave the family I’d come to know better, as well as the wonderful and relaxing time we’d had there. I felt a little blue as we drove away.

The first day of driving was pretty much all boring. Arkansas and Tennessee are some of the more boring states I’ve ever driven through. We could have stopped to do touristy things in Gatlinburg or Nashville, but we didn’t want to take too much time. So we drove until 10:30 and then stopped about an hour outside of Virginia for the night.

Tuesday we entered Virginia, which is an absolutely beautiful state to drive through. It’s a big difference from Tennessee. The mountains and hills are gorgeous. We’d decided to aim for the Skyline Drive that runs through the Shenendoah Valley National Park. Oh. My. Word. It was stunning. If you’ve never done that, and ever get a chance, you really must. There’s a small fee to enter the park that they use to maintain it, but it’s worth it. If we’d driven the whole way through it would have taken 3 hours, but we only went about 3/4 of the way. You could really spend an entire day there - or weekend, if you camped. There are outlook spots every few miles to stop and look at the breathtaking views.

These pictures don’t even begin to do justice to the awesome beauty of this place. The mountains rise up around you and consume you and fill you with a feeling of wonder that can’t be captured on camera. You’ll just have to try to imagine it. Take the time to look through all the pictures, though. It’s worth it.

While we were there, I was trying to describe the feeling of this place and was saying, “You look out at this and your heart just feels like it’s...it’s...filled up with something...with...” And Daniel finished for me:


I love that he said that.

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(Emily took this picture, and even directed us where to stand! Budding photographer?)
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And, I’ll close with Tim’s list of “30 Things I Learned on My Trip To Arkansas.” It’s actually a pretty good little summary!
1. 70% of your great ideas to keep the kids entertained will never be used. 20% will be partially used within the first few hours and left mostly untouched for the rest of the trip. The remaining 10% won't be discovered until the last half of the last day of the trip.
2. No matter how hard you try to plan potty breaks, one of the kids will desperately need to use the potty just after you pass the nearest rest stop and there won't be another rest stop for 85 more miles.
3. Despite everyone's best efforts, there will be a few battles in the car.
4. Trusting kids to be careful with any quantity of liquids in the car is foolhardy at best.
5. Drive several miles outside of major tourist traps to score a significantly cheaper room for the night.
6. You know you spent the night at a truck stop when just you and the hotel crew are still at the hotel at 7AM.
7. It doesn't matter what cellular provider you use, when you're on the Skyline Drive, you won't have any bars in any places nor will anyone hear you at anytime.
8. No matter which way you go, your car always manages to find the traffic jams and 20 mile stretches of lane closures due to construction.
9. Red Bull still tastes horrible when you're really tired.
10. Sometimes the absolute best food comes from a hole in the wall restaurant in the middle of nowhere, that you would be really dubious about even stopping at to ask for directions, if the locals didn't insist that it was "the place to go".
11. Kids never seem to get bored when there's a lake, swimming gear, jet skis, a water slide, boat, and several third cousins around.
12. Never consume an entire BBQ sandwich that has been drenched in something called "Shut Up Juice". Just one drop is apparently enough to shut me up.
13. Places and things are never quite as one remembers them.
14. Suntan lotion is made for a reason and it's a very good reason. Forgetting that reason, even for a little while, can be a bit painful.
15. Spending a weekend in the summer in Arkansas at a lake house is much, much nicer than a weekend in the summer just about anywhere else in Arkansas.
16. Despite your best efforts, you will always manage to leave something very valuable to your kids behind. Making arrangements to secure its quick return is essential to your sanity.
17. While it is such a pleasant surprise to cross from one timezone to another while heading west, it's a sick and cruel trick when heading east.
18. Somehow, all trips out west and back manage to require traveling through a small corner of West Virginia. I still can't figure out why.
19. Leaving in the middle of the night so that your kids will sleep for the first several hours doesn't work very well.
20. Gino's apparently has opened a Philly steak franchise in Hot Springs, AR, or, at least there's a place in Hot Springs named Gino's that supposedly serves up "Philly steaks".
21. You pretty much can't get very far without seeing either a Cracker Barrel, Walmart, or a truck stop.
22. Kids can trash the back of a car in no time flat.
23. Lemons leftover from a drink in a cup and sitting in a car for three days are really nasty.
24. It is incredibly difficult to get onto a jet ski without it flipping over when you are a complete and utter klutz.
25. Your navigation system is useless when the road it wants you to take is closed. ("Please make a U-turn now!")
26. Driving on an old, rough, cobblestone road for several blocks is not fun.
27. Plan on a full day to do nothing but drive from one end to the other of Tennessee. Also plan on being extremely bored. (Sorry Tennessee.)
28. Even with all the rough times in the car, going on a road trip with the family is a fun and exciting adventure that everyone will remember for years to come.
29. The closer you get to home, the further away it seems.
30. It always feels wonderful to get back home after a time away.