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Investigative Solutions

Part One: Family Day in KY
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2004
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On Thursday, June 24, 2004, with 29883 miles on my speedomer, Luz and I set out with the crew on a two and a half week expedition with two Jeeps and four kids that ultimately carried us thru KY, WV, VA, TN, NC, GA and FL. We had Megs in the Rubicon and Jeremy had Ryan and Dook in his Sport.

We got a late start, and left naples headed North on I-75 at about 5PM. We stopped for gas about two hours later having travelled our first 157.6 miles of what would be nearly 3000.

My heavier Rubicon with taller tires and lower gears got exactly ten miles to the gallon. Jeremy's Sport didn't get much better since he was carrying so much on his roof rack.

Shortly after we got back on the road, we encountered a north bound car hauler - having paid more than $50 to travel our first 157 miles, I was sorely tempted . . .

As it turned out, our gas mileage was not nearly that bad.

Jeeps have the aerodynamics normally associated with cement blocks, and wind resistance increases dramatically as a function of speed. Frankly, I like them that way - who would want an aerodynamic "bubble car" looking Jeep? None for me, thanks.

We soon discovered that these Jeeps got much better mileage if we slowed down just a bit. 10 mpg at 75 mph on the Interstate became 12/13 mpg at 65 and 15 mpg at 55 - 60 mph on secondary roads. The difference applied the same way to both my Rubicon and Jeremy's Sport; he averaged just over 15 mpg and I averaged slighty less.

We abandoned the Interstate system in favor of the old state highways.

We had one scheduled event to attend; Family Day on our farm in Kentucky was Saturday and circumstances beyond our control had kept us in Naples, Florida until Thursday late afternoon. Our farm is almost exactly 1000 miles from our home in Naples. Since Family Day begins about 4PM, we intended to drive Thursday afternoon, all day Friday and Saturday morning.

Our first night we stopped in North Florida. It was a bit early to stop, but we visit the Ocala Jeep Club a lot, and we have come to like the Super 8 Motel there. They don't have as complete a breakfast as we prefer, but they have a pretty good one, the rooms are reasonable and they are always nice to deal with.

Yes, I confess, I do let the kids jump on the beds at motels.
If you have occasion to travel with lots of kids, I think you're better off to stay at moderately priced hotels that offer a decent breakfast. I'll pass on $50/Night and pay $75/Night at the nicer motel if they provide breakfast. You invariably get a nicer room and . . . pick up the tab for my kids to eat at Cracker Barrel and see what that costs.

I always get two rooms, but it's really worth every bit of an extra fifty dollars to stay in nice rooms if I get to leave breakfast to them. Since I am booking two rooms, it also gives me a little more leverage to negotiate a better deal.

You might pack six people into a suite someplace but in the morning, there is still going to be six folks and one bathroom. On our next trip, I think I'll look into the family run "bed and breakfasts."

Also, on the subject of hotels that have a decent breakfast, I have found that instead of dragging kids out of bed in the morning, they are anxious to get up - my little heathens look at it as a personal challenge to see how much free food they can eat on these trips.

The hotel staff doesn't usually care. A guy at one of the Comfort Inns we stayed at watched the kids all thru breakfast - afterwards, he told me he never saw anything like it. I thought he was talking about the amount of food my little third-world army can eat, but he went on to say, "Most adults don't even pick up after themselves; I never saw anyone wipe off their own table."

Other than a "roach coach" Best Western in Blairsville, GA, we have never had what I would call a bad experience on any trip. That was on the way home though so I'll address that later . . . I think I left us back to the Super 8 Motel in Ocala.

I don't generally eat breakfast, so once Jeremy got the roof rack packed, and lifted our cooler into place (my baby boy is now bigger and stronger than I am), we rescued the motel from the plague of oversized locusts in their dining room. After reviewing our map together, we were northbound once again, but this time we had a better start.

We live in Florida so we didn't consider Bush Gardens or Disney; as much as we have always enjoyed both, the kids were focused on seeing something new and they were anxious to see "Farmer Man" (my Dad) and his sister, their Great Aunt Ardith. We headed north toward Kentucky on various secondary roads - primarily the highways that everyone used before the Interstate highway system.

We were in the lead Jeep, and all of a sudden Megs yelled, "Turn there, turn there - where does that road go?" I barely made the turn, tires screeched behind me and Jeremy yelled into the mic, "Why didn't you tell me we were turning?"
When I told him it was because Megs hadn't told me, Megan, being Megan, thought that was hysterically funny. We made what amounted to a very tight U-turn and drove down a gravel road into a wooded basin.

Why? Because Megan said so - that's why.

It was a nice place to drive thru, with trails on most of the hills. All things considered, we all thought Megan had made a pretty good "pick."

Once we got to the farm, we had the opportunity to visit with family members we don't see very often, including my brother, Bart; and his daughter, Remy.

Life has a way of separating folks, but we all expect to see the day that we can all move back to the farm.

As always, the farm was beautiful; the "Farmer Man" wouldn't have it any other way. Anywhere you look, it was as neat and cared for as it is possible for a human being to manage - especially on Family Day when family members come from everywhere to visit us.
Entertainment is different on the Farm and the difference comes naturally. Rather than playing Nintendo, and other such things, kids occupy themselves with rolling down hills, wandering around in the woods, and jumping stumps.

Honestly, who wouldn't give a hundred dollars right now just to be able to do these things and feel this good - even if only for a few minutes. Lord knows if I could get myself up that high, it would be like that old Dick Cepek Tire advertisement with the air born Power Wagon -- the photo looked wonderfully cool, and they used that photo for years, but the truck broke all to pieces when it landed.

I guess the best a man can get is to share their youth and enthusiasm when you watch them. I'm not complaining; I regard that as a blessing.

There are other things we do on the farm that we don't do much of at home - for one thing, I think it is a worthwhile thing for children to know how to make sausage. I suppose it's a sensitive subject for some, but I think children should understand where sausage (or any meat) comes from.

We have shared our sausage with many of our friends; although they know it is home made, I doubt that most of them have the vaguest idea how it's made.

We grind our own meat spiced to our liking, form it into patties and cook it before canning it in jars.

Of course, the first step to making good sausage is obtaining the meat.

Give my kids a box of .22's and voila - a little squirrel and a little raccoon.

In a world where activists throw blood on people wearing fur coats, and vandalize other people's SUV's as a means of social expression, I suspect that I am going to be getting nasty grams over this - not that I really care what people like that think about anything. Perhaps if their parents spent a little more time with them, they might not have grown up to be punks and vandals.

One thing I will confess though, I was kidding about the sausage. We often share our canned foods with friends and neighbors, so we never put anything in them that anyone would be likely to take exception to, or be allergic to. Our sausage is made of 100% pork; I bet some of our friends breathed a sigh of relief..

After Family Day (the Family Day photos are posted in the Photo Gallery), we went Jeepin' with Lisa Turpin and her fiance, Justin Ruble. The took us to a place called Cromer's Ridge off I-75 at Exit 49 near London, KY.

But that's another part of the story..



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