Destination: Mammoth Cave/ Bowling Green, Kentucky

March 26 – 27, 2019

With Marco finishing his second year of residency, we found out he still had 2 weeks worth of vacation that was gonna go to waste if he didn’t use it so we planned a quick getaway and ended up planning a road trip with Atlanta, Georgia as our last stop. We figured if we drive through Kentucky, Tennessee then Georgia we could cross those three states out of our bucket list. So our first stop was Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. From where we live in Indiana, it was a 4 hour drive without the stops and the accidents, we actually made it in good time and decided to have a decent meal with the kids before our trip to the cave. Of course we decided to have our super late lunch at KFC- Kentucky Fried Chicken, we wanted to see if there was something special with their chicken since KFC originated in this state but unsurprisingly the chicken tasted the same, we still loved it though ( although personally I prefer the chicken in KFC-Philippines). The KFC we ate in was right outside the Mammoth Cave National Park and as soon as we were done we headed to the visitor center.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Longest cave system known in the world

Just like anyone with kids, I bet you too have a lot of questions about bringing them on a cave tour and just to answer some of those, I’m posting some answers in FAQ form. Feel free to send me a direct message if you want clarifications or if you have additional questions.

Can you do a cave tour with kids?

Yes, you may. I personally reached out to Mammoth Cave National Park since the information on their website was a bit vague and a Park ranger returned my call and confirmed that they do have kid-friendly tours, you can even bring your baby if you’re willing to. For reference Cassie is 3 y.o and Xavi is 15 months.

Can you purchase tickets on the spot?

In theory, you can although they do advice you to purchase them before hand as they tend to get sold out especially during the peak seasons like spring break and summer.

Which tour is kid-friendly?

They have a list of the tours with detailed descriptions, level of difficulty and duration of tour, the one we took was the HISTORIC TOUR and it is friendly for kids that are around Cassie and Xavi’s age. The specific tour we got was a 2-mile hike inside a cave that would last us an estimate of 2 hours.

Can you bring a stroller? Baby carrier?

No, you cannot bring a stroller and yes you may bring a baby carrier, although they don’t allow any backpacks or hiking carriers that go above your head (or was it shoulders) just verify with the visitor center but this is actually very generous of them considering that when I brought the kids to a cave tour at Sequoia National Park, they wouldn’t allow the baby carrier unless it was one of those full cloth slings because they were scared that the plastic would rub against the walls, damaging them for good. More information on the website, I’m just going with what I was told.

 

So here’s our experience in a nutshell— we picked up our tickets at the visitor center ($34 for me and Marco, the kids were free) and since we were a bit early we toured the area and visited the souvenir shops to get our souvenir magnets.

30 minutes before our tour, which was the last tour for the day (3:15 pm), we stayed by the assigned meet up place until everyone gathered. There was a good 100 people on there, the park ranger or guide gave us instructions and briefed us on what we should be expecting for this tour.

We walked a few minutes towards the entrance of the cave and 10 minutes into the hike Cassie fell asleep, Xavi was already asleep even before we entered the cave, I’m thinking the cold temperature might have lulled them to sleep as they were already tired prior to that.

I wish I could say we took a lot of decent pictures but we were busy trying to keep up with the group while carrying both kids; Marco had Cassie in a the baby carrier and I had Xavi strapped on to me in a sling. The pathways are mostly paved and at one point even spacious, you can walk through comfortably. Most of the stairs had railings too so it was easier to make our way down.

Cassie woke up by the time we reached Fat Man’s Misery which was a good thing coz Marco would have had a difficult time zigzagging through that passage way with her strapped in front of him, she walked in between us and had no problem at all. I did pretty okay even with Xavi strapped in front of me and had no problem when the passage transitioned to Tall Man’s Misery, can I just say I love being small and short. Haha.

There was a short break in between where they gathered everyone and we all sat on benches, they briefed us that the next thing we were about to do was climb 150-155 steps straight.

I know that may sound a lot but the guides are very patient and accommodating and considering that Xavi was still asleep in front of me, I did fine. Cassie walked with Marco all the way up. Side note: if you have a fear of heights, I suggest you DO NOT look down. Overall, the tour was worth it even when the kids were dead weight while we were hiking, there were interesting facts that I learned but will not be mentioning them on here as not to spoil it for y’all if you plan to go. I know, I get a lot of ‘advice’ online from those who have done the tour to NOT bring kids this young but honestly it was an experience that we did as a family even if they won’t be remembering any of it, there was a sense of achievement in our part as parents, besides we’re all about doing things together, haha.

We made it! Xavi’s face says he doesn’t care.

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson

Address: 535 Wall Street, Bowling Green, KY 42104

So just to mention, all of our hotels on this trip were pretty light on the budget. We made sure they were comfortable, cheap and had free breakfast since most of our activities involved being out and about anyway. For this hotel, they accidentally gave us the handicap accessible room which was fine for the most part. It was spacious and had a receiving room, it had one queen size bed but the sofa was a sofa bed so the kids ended up sleeping there. The bathroom was spacious as well but it didn’t have a bath tub since it was wheel chair friendly so that still worked for me and my kids.

Los Mariachis Mexican Restaurant

For some reason we were craving for Mexican food in Kentucky, weird I know but cravings have to be satisfied so thank God there was a decent one close to our hotel. The place was spacious so and the colorful tables and chairs are a sight to see. Food was great as the reviews online mentioned and the servings were big, can I just add that I enjoyed my frozen margarita immensely. 🙂

National Corvette Museum

Address: 350 Corvette Dr, Bowling Green, KY 42101

Marco was actually surprised when I suggested to visit this museum, he knows I’m not really into cars but the idea that this supercar was made and assembled right here in Bowling Green, Kentucky intrigued me. Of course I could just post a bunch of photos of different types of Corvettes through the years but I guess what intrigued me most was the fact that we could visit the actual site of the sink hole that happened right here in this museum and it actually swallowed a bunch of these expensive cars. They actually have a whole area dedicated to it.

And I just have to say they have a note-worthy KidZone at the museum, even adults might actually enjoy it. It’s very interactive, kids can pretend to be mechanics and check up the car or you can gas it up or even change the tires among many other things, Cassie and Xavi had so much fun that we might have stayed there for more than 15 minutes.

This is where they give you different perspectives on the ‘Corvette Cave In’, they show you actual footage of the event and show you how the whole ‘Sinkhole Experience’ happened. They also show you what kind of Corvettes were included and the history behind those cars.

If we weren’t in a hurry to head to the next state, we would’ve stayed there longer but we were so off to Nashville, Tennessee we go. Till next time Kentucky!

~Rhea

Destination: Morgantown, West Virginia

March 30 – April 1, 2018

Since living here in Muncie, Indiana, this would be the second time we’re driving out of state with two toddlers in tow. The first one was a few weeks back around St. Patricks Day weekend and we drove to Chicago, Illinois which was 4 hrs and 30 minutes away from us. Although that was the first ever state outside Indiana that Xavi’s been to I didn’t bother blogging about it since the entire weekend was more focused on family instead of sight-seeing. We actually met a few of Marco’s relatives that he hasn’t seen for years; I’ve never even met them so it was all family bonding and of course shout out to my Tito Jeff and Tita Malu ( The Climacos) for having us again and for always spoiling us and the kids especially with food, haha. Okay so enough about Chicago, this entry is about Morgantown.

Marco’s less-stress rotation was coming to an end and we thought of taking advantage of the long weekend (he had Friday off) so we were randomly checking the US map and thinking of other states we haven’t been to and he suggested WV because a very good friend of mine from way back ( friends since we were 5/6 ish, I’m not kidding) and one of my bridesmaid recently moved to Morgantown with her husband and we googled how far it was from our place and it was only a 5 hr and 30 minute drive so that’s how we ended up driving to Morgantown.

The drive in itself was pleasant, not too many stops considering that we had an almost-2-month old with us. I fed Xavi right before the drive and he slept good for almost 3 hours then we stopped for a gas/ potty break and decided to feed Xavi around the same time. We arrived around dinner time and the San Juans went all out to accommodate us (you know what I mean, dadz. Thank you so much for making sure we were very comfortable). We had towels, snacks, water bottles and toothbrushes ready and Aj cooked us legit Chicken Inasal (even the rice was legit).

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Since we’re here just for the weekend, our itinerary for the day was pretty extensive. Here are the places we visited while we were there for you guys who might be interested  in visiting or are visiting Morgantown, WV soon.

Forks of Cheat Winery

Address: 2811 Stewartstown Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508

We were blessed with beautiful weather that day and although the deck at the winery wasn’t officially open to public we figured we would still go because they had a bunch of award-winning wines that we wanted to check out. Might I add that the drive going to the winery is very scenic and pretty impressive, I’m sure its more beautiful when Spring is in full bloom.

I would advise you to go for the wine-tasting and if you end up buying something, which I’m sure you will, their Apple Pie Moonshine and their Blackberry Wine comes highly recommended.

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Good Counsel Friary

Address: 493 Tyrone Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508

This wonderfully constructed building is sadly not open to the public but we just had to see this historical structure for ourselves. We were told that its currently owned by the church and is being used as the priests living quarters so clearly #Notrespassing. We weren’t allowed to climb the deck but we took a lot of pictures and boomerang videos outside.

I hope they open this landmark to the public once more. It has a very interesting history which includes the 5-year construction of this castle in 1928 and finally completing it in 1933. It was originally Thoney Pietro’s home that he donated to the Franciscan brothers of the Catholic Church. I’m sure the interior is as interesting as its exterior.

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West Virginia Botanic Garden

 Address: 1061 Tyrone Rd, Morgantown, WV 26508

We hear this botanical garden looks amazing when the flowers are in full bloom during Spring but even without the flowers that place was a sight to see, just good ‘ol nature at its best. We weren’t expecting to go on a short hike but I’m glad that we did, it was surprisingly relaxing and Cassie walked the entire trail while holding her Ninang Karina’s hand. That hike was also a good way for us to work out an appetite for our late lunch.

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Ali Baba Restaurant

Address: 82 Hart Field Rd, Morgantown, WV 26505

Mediterranean food for lunch c/o the San Juans, the restaurant was literally inside the local airport and we were in a booth seated by the window. Our view was the airport hangar and it was entertaining seeing small planes fly in and out of the hangar during the duration of the meal. Good food, wonderful view, thanks for the treat out guys!

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Cheat Lake Park and Trail

Address: Cheat Lake Trail, Morgantown, WV 26508

Our last stop for the day, it would’ve been a wonderful place to explore but it was getting chilly so we stayed for a while and had Cassie play in the playground. We walked a bit and decided to call it a day. We’re definitely coming back.

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Photo Credit: Karina San Juan

Coopers Rock State Forest

Address: 61 County Line Drive, Bruceton Mills, WV 26525

I was actually excited to see the infamous overlook at Cooper Rock especially on Easter Day. We were invited to an Easter/ Birthday shindig and I plan to hide Cassie’s eggs so she could do her Easter egg hunt there but it was extremely foggy to the point where we couldn’t see where we were going. With the fog came the rain then the chill so we were slightly cold and freezing, I figured we would have to come back some other time to visit the overlook and I also decided to hold off Cassie’s egg hunt and just do it at home.

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For a University Town, Morgantown had a lot to offer and we’re so glad we enjoyed exploring the area with the San Juans. Thanks so much for having us on short notice and for taking us all over the place, Dadz and Kuya Bey. We’re definitely coming back to visit.

So to those who are reading this and are wondering where Morgantown, West Virginia is and if there’s anything to do in there, well I hope this answers your question—there are TONS (and they’re pretty kid friendly too).

~Rhea

 

Muncie Local: Water Bowl

Here’s another attempt to explore Muncie and see what it has to offer. For the past few days I’ve been craving for Vitamin Sea and I’m almost positive there isn’t a legit beach close by so I started googling swimming holes, public pools or lakes within the area and after a good while I finally came across Water Bowl. I’m surprised it’s not one of the first few things that came out in Google search considering that this place has been here for awhile (since 1970). Let’s just say I found a local commercial for this place on youtube from 1988…that’s just 2 years after I was born and on there they say…

“Come Join us here in Water Bowl, the hottest place in Muncie”

And it did seem very enticing, possibly “the place to be” in the late 80s to early 90s but I guess the hype eventually died down maybe due to people getting tired of it, or bad marketing strategy or there wasn’t enough publicity, maybe there was a change of management or it lacked maintenance…one can only speculate but it’s still there, its open, they still have events once in awhile and its been running all these years so in a way they must be doing something right. I was just a bit surprised that there were only a few people there considering that it was still summer.

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Online they have a good rating of 4+ stars and to be honest, the place was actually pretty good. Come to think of it I was pleased that it wasn’t packed, I’ve noticed that I’ve developed a disliking for super crowded places, I don’t know of its my age showing. Haha.

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There were lounging areas surrounding the swim area and they didn’t charge for those so you could occupy as much chairs and tables as you wanted, I guess they’re banking on people being considerate of one another. Admission was reasonable too, here are the current rates from their FB page.

Admission Prices for Fishing and Swimming
$5.50 per Adult
$2.00 per Child (13 and under)
Children under 3 are FREE

Camping Prices
$10.00 per Adult
$5.00 per child (13 and under)
3 and under are FREE

Season Pass Pricing
Single Pass $150.00
Family 4 Pass $250.00

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Pregnant mama concealing her bump. 😀

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The main area and the snack shack.

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The sand there was pretty okay but it could still be a lot better if they imposed rules like “no pets”, “no eating” and “no smoking” close to the swimming area (or maybe they had them but weren’t strict enough to reinforce them). I noticed 2 cigarette butts close to where we were hanging out (i’m sure you’ll see at least one if you stare at this photo) and a woman got away with not throwing her burger wrapper which eventually flew into the water and I had to pick it up. The swing area had one dog poop probably because they allowed pets within the vicinity.

I’d be more confident to have my baby play on the sand and build sand castles if they paid more attention to cleanliness. In my opinion, the water was pretty clean though.

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Me with my mini-me

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The pirate ship was a pretty cool attraction for kids but it wasn’t running when we were there. The slides are supposedly water slides, I could tell based on the holes on top of the slides. She still had fun playing on the ship though.

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Oh yeah, they have fishes swimming by the shore and these are the small ones so if you wiggle your toes they come closer thinking its bait or worm. I think if you go further down you can even fish. I saw a boy with his fishing pole and he caught a fish twice the size of my hand.

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To those interested to visit Water Bowl, here’s the

Address to Google: 6811 North Old State Road 3 Muncie, Indiana

Those who use Waze, I suggest you use Google Maps for this place because Waze hasn’t updated their map and I got lost twice, It kept making me miss a turn and I had to drive 15 minutes more when it recalculated.

But to sum it all up, it was a fairly good experience, a perfectly relaxing day for me, Marie and Cassie. If the weather is right and you should happen to be in the area, make sure to drop by.

~Rhea

Destination: Austin, Texas

This has got to be one of the most random, most unplanned road trips I’ve ever taken in my entire life. But sometimes its those random adventures that make the journey worth while especially when its with your family, now if you don’t enjoy being around your family then what I just said doesn’t count. Oh, and tell me why my brother Paulo finally gets to take off from work only to find out that our plans were up in the air, talk about bad timing. For years now we’ve been nagging him to come with us coz he never makes it to our family outings and the one time he decides to come, we didn’t have anything planned, well we did but the weather kinda messed that up.

So here was our original plan (the one we picked out of a million) —Barton Springs and Hamilton Pool in Austin and then camping in one of the State Parks. And just like the weather forecast stated, it rained like crazy washing away our one and only feasible plan and so we had to google what to do on the spot as we were already in Austin.

First stop, Kerlin BBQ.

So originally we weren’t supposed to eat in Kerlin but that other Bbq place we were planning to go to ran out of meat. I’m glad we ended up eating here though, yes it may be a food truck and it wasn’t really an ideal set up to be eating outdoors especially with the rain and the mud puddles but their BBQ was so tasty and their prices were decent, not to mention they had good service. That lady who helped us (possibly the owner) made sure we got our bang for the buck and we did.

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M.E.A.T

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Loved loved loved the cream corn

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Did someone say local beer?

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The outdoor set up

Next stop, Cathedral of Junk.

Address to Google: 4422 Lareina Drive, Austin, TX

After years of working on this piece, Vince, the artist and the owner was finally given a permit for Cathedral of Junk to stay for good as an Austin landmark. This place is free of admission but like any struggling artist donations are greatly appreciated to fund the maintenance of this Art Museum and other art pieces in the works. For groups a suggested amount of $10 is good enough but if you want to donate more then all the better. Make sure to call 512-299-7413 before heading there since the place is by appointment only.

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Cathedral of Junk

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Ramas- Mendezonas outside the Cathedral of Junk.

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Bits and bobs everywhere, its hard not to stare at the walls

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Okayyyy, random Barbie parts are kinda creepy

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How creepy…trolls randomly strapped in the ceiling

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The view of the cathedral from the back

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Vince, the artist.

Third stop, Hope Outdoor Gallery.

Address to Google: 1101 Baylor Street, Austin, TX

Austin’s community or gallery for graffiti art. If you want artsy photos with cool backgrounds like those you see on IG (rolls eyeballs, haha) then you’re definitely in the right place, only problem during the time we visited Hope Outdoor Gallery was it was raining and the place was clearly muddy and slippery. I didn’t risk taking Cassie further up for the fear of slipping, the rest of my siblings climbed all the way up though. Marco and I will definitely be back to explore this place some more when Mr. Sun is out.

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Last stop, Texas State Capitol.

Address to Google: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX

Located in Downtown Austin, this was the only place we could think of to cap our random Austin trip on a rainy day. At that point we weren’t too keen nor were we interested in reading or learning about anything that involved Texas’ political history. We did enjoy touring the capitol and spotting Sam Houston’s portrait (since both my sisters go to Sam Houston State University). Btw, admission is free although parking wasn’t, I think we paid $10 for parking.

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And there you have it, a recap of our random day trip to Austin.

~Rhea

Destination: Harlingen, Texas

Marco was scheduled for another interview here in Texas but this time it was in Harlingen so we took a road trip close to the border of Mexico more for business than pleasure. It’ s days like these when I get to take advantage of the perks working PRN (as needed) at the hospital. I love how I can just pick my schedule and take off from work without any hassles or complications when need be. It took us roughly 4 hours and 30 minutes to get there and the first thing we did was google a good place to eat. We ended up having lunch at Brass Wheel Restaurant.

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Marine Memorial

Visited this mini museum mainly for the Iwo Jima Memorial statue. The wind was acting up so we didn’t even stay long and I didn’t even bother visiting the gift shop like I normally would.

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Iwo Jima Memorial up closeimg_9599_zpsimpsxovc

Because he feels the need to do the “Lion King” pose at every historical landmark we go to.img_9611_zpslbwedbei

 Checked in at Courtyard by Marriott

It had a modern minimalistic feel to it.

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The hotel’s poolside was pretty decent and since we had nothing else better to do, we decided to take Cassie for a swim.

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She acts like she runs the place, waiting for daddy to get ready.

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So apparently people who viewed my snaps thought we were crazy for swimming that day since it was rather breezy, the water was warm and we didn’t really stay long so I promise you Cassie was fine.

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Famished after her swim so she grabbed her snack, sat on the sofa and started munching on her puffs like a boss

That night Cassie and I stayed in and ate left overs while Marco had an informal dinner with the rest of the interviewees for the residency program.

The next day, Marco rode a shuttle and left early for the hospital, Cassie and I packed our stuff, loaded up and went window shopping after we had that cockroach incident. I am not even going to expound on what happened since I am positive that it wasn’t even the hotel’s fault but lets just say I had to get over my fear of roaches so I could kill one. I felt like if I didn’t, it would have called the rest of its friends and Cassie and I would have a cockroach frenzy.

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Just roamed around town while Marco was doing his interview, its a good thing I found the mall right when he finished. He gave me a call just when I walked in a Forever 21 and it looked like 6x this photo. It felt like a Forever 21 warehouse and I was just glad he called before I could do any credit card damage that  I would regret in the future. Everything was on sale!!!!

Met up with one of Marco’s friends from med school that was currently doing residency over there, they had a quick catch up before we drove back to Houston. On our way home we got stopped at an immigration checkpoint. Because the city was located in the border  line of Mexico, immigration was taking precautionary measures that Marco was unaware of and I totally forgot about. He forgot to bring his green card and it took them a while to verify his identity with his drivers license. I’m just glad nothing crazy resulted from our inefficiencies. We got home safe, extremely exhausted but safe.

~Rhea