In between towns, we stopped at the Tiger Truck Stop. Yes, a real tiger at a real truck stop. They've had a tiger for many years- but not without controversy!

Another roadside attraction that was: Christmas Land. It was raining hard, so we didn't get too far in. Santa and his arm were in 12 inches of water, visible from the interstate. If you make it here, near Marshall Texas, continue on past the Santa figure and you'll come to a gingerbread house and miscellaneous Christmas parts- then make 2 right turns on these country blocks and you'll be back to the interstate. The clearance of the trees on this country lane is about 12 feet (!)

Passing through Longview Texas we checked out the water logged campus of LeTourneau U, and their airfield- that Trevor is checking into as he considers an aviation future.

We started the day dropping off Bussie at another ABC location for some work.  (You will recall our time at the Costa Mesa, California ABC at the beginning of our trip.) They seem just as nice here and we know that Bussie is in good hands getting tuned up. The kids (especially the little ones) were VERY excited to learn that we will need to leave the bus overnight and therefore need to stay overnight at the “Big E” which they affectionately refer to any Embassy Suites Hotel as.  What is not to love… two rooms, two big TVs with cable, the evening reception with all the snacks you can eat and all the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers you can drink in two hours, the swimming pool and hot tub, and of course the yummy cook to order breakfast that is included in the morning. Even better, after YEARS of being in their rewards program, we have finally saved up enough points to earn our first free night.

Many of our stops have been surreal, like this one. It is an awesome feeling to stand only feet from where JFK lost his life, no matter how many people have come before us- to be here made us (Kelly and Mark) stop in awe. One day, the kids will get it, too. To actually see history has been a spark of energy for this trip.

On the way to the Big E we decided to spend a few hours for history class at the site where President J. F. Kennedy was shot.  We peeked in at the 6th Floor Museum, deciding to spend our time reading through some books and information at the gift shop instead of spending the $100 it would cost our big family to actually go up the elevator to the official museum. We learned a ton (not just the kids) and then walked along the street, seeing the two x marks on the road showing the actual spot his car was when he was shot each time.  We stood on the grassy knoll, looking up to the 6th floor corner window of the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot from .. spending some time just  reflecting on the tragedy.  It seems that when we teach/learn this way (hands on) that our natural curiosity drives us to dig even deeper than we ever would if we were just reading it for a required history class.  After leaving the kids asked many questions and we spent the remaining drive with me reading out loud from the book we bought and discussing President Kennedy’s work on civil rights, the Cuban invasion at the Bay of Pigs, and his religious beliefs (first Catholic President).  This also was a great tie in to discussing the holiday today and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

This was the ONLY photo you could take in, on or near the money print headquarters. Good to see a proper welcome!

Our second day, Tuesday, Jan 18, was in Fort Worth and involved another field trip (Homeschooling on the road is awesome for these).  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth makes 60 percent of the US paper money with the other 40 percent coming from Washington, DC.  This was a very worthwhile tour with a hands on visitor center to explore before and after the tour.  We spent several hours here and again the parents learned as much as or more than the kids and we had fun doing it.  Some little known interesting facts:

1. If there is a star by the serial number of a bill it is because it replaced another bill at the very last inspection spot on the line and when they manually removed that less than perfect bill they needed to replace its spot and do so by inserting a previously made “star bill.”

2. There is a whole department at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing that will go through money that has been damaged and will do their best to sort through each note one at a time to figure out how much money was involved and then will replace this money to the owner.  They talked about money that has been in fires, floods, or buried, even a cow that ate a farmer’s wallet- so he slaughtered the cow and sent them the stomach with the wallet still in it.  This is a free service too, just in case you happen to dig up some long lost treasures.

3. Two dollar bills are still being made, but they are only printed every 3-5 years to replace the bills taken out of circulation

4.  $100 bills are the largest note made now (I feel that I should have known this fact, but I really did think there were larger bills that rich people must carry.  I just thought the $100 bill was as big as I would ever have)

5. Of the money printed there, they have about a 4% “spoilage” rate.  These less than perfect bills are shredded and sold in the gift shop

5. Tour guides will not talk about any “mistakes” that are missed and get into the general money circulation.  When someone asked about a story he read regarding bills from their facility with some imperfection, she stated she was not allowed to discuss that topic. (I still need to look at that story up) Then, at the end of our tour, the last stop was where they seal the money into bricks, but instead there was a table set up with four people unbundling stacks of bills and looking through them.  When we asked what they were doing she said, “I don’t know, I’ve never seen them doing that before” and quickly hustled us along.  Now, being the mother of seven children, I have become quite good at my detective skills and can quickly sum up most situations. I saw the large, blown up, photocopy of a sheet of bills that had been cut unevenly along the one edge.  It was sitting in the middle of this group showing them what they were looking for as they hand searched through stack after stack of bills and then yellowed out the serial numbers that they had cleared. Then rebundling them and putting them in the cart to be sealed.  I guess we saw the story that might-have-been.

Wow, I’m sure that is more than you ever wanted to know about someone else’s field trip to see money being made. 

Bussie is done at ABC, we are reloaded, and starting our journey North and West to Colorado.

After the work was complete, we were so excited to hit the 'HOME' button on TomTom, and see how far and how long it will be before we're sleeping at 7,500 feet again. Little did we know that just a few hours North of here we would be forced to stay the night unexpectedly!