Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack,

Right before we crossed over from Mentone to Fort Payne, Alabama, I surprised you by parking the Lexus ES 300h at an old church that is built around a giant rock; which is named Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

It was built back in 1937, when Colonel Milford Howard constructed the chapel as a memorial to his wife. And equally interesting is the fact his ashes are inside the rock itself, as his sort of burial place.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Another fascinating thing about “Howard’s Chapel” is that the doors are never locked. That means that travelling passersby from DeSoto State Park can visit it at their convenience. This fact is openly promoted on the sign.

A couple Christmases back, I took you there with Uncle Andrew and Papa. However, you told me you don’t remember that.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

So it was like a brand new experience for you this time. I believe I was about your age when I first became aware of this chapel.

It’s such a rare thing- to be able to walk inside an old church with a giant rock inside, which contains the builder’s ashes. Seriously, how many people can say they actually have been there and seen the inside?

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

I bet most people have never even heard of it, outside of my hometown. It’s just so tucked away.

You were obviously fascinated. I’m sure it seemed like a bizarre dream to you. But it was all real… I was there too with you.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

And to think, I just grew up a few miles from there.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Ghostbusters and The BFG (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

The next stop on our father and son trip: The Azalea Trail at DeSoto State Park. But first, on the way there, I decided it would be cool to show you that little brick house I grew up in… coming up next.

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

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Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

This past Sunday afternoon, leading up to Mommy taking you to see The Secret Life of Pets, you and I had a solid hour to kill. So I decided we both ought to take a meandering walk outside in the Tennessee July heat.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

You decided to start out our adventure by grabbing a toy dinosaur that has been left outside our back porch. It was the kind that costs a dollar and grows 5 times its size when it’s emerged in water.

Given the fact it’s been sitting outside in the sun and rain for several weeks now, it has defaulted to a sort of gooey, slimy, puffy version of itself. You decided to take your extinct friend on our journey.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

You also grabbed a test tube from one of your experiments that you had worked on the day before. Without surprise, the dinosaur got slimed with the goo.

After that matter was resolved, we began our trip along the empty sidewalks; as no one else was crazy enough to be outside in that heat.

One of the warnings I remember receiving a lot when I was a young boy was not to play with sticks; granted, I had a young sister too.

But you and I were outside, with no one else around. So when you took it upon yourself to pick up a few sticks use as crutches and/or weapons, I didn’t stop you.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

We made our way to the edge of our neighborhood where they are finishing up the last of the new construction.

Your first self-assigned challenge was for me to find a rock too heavy for you to pick up, but light up enough that you could hold. You enjoyed the glory of holding it while I took a picture.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Then you decided you wanted to watch me pick up the biggest rocks I could and throw them against the other rocks so you could watch them break each other. You were amazed to see such an event.

Next, with the sticks you brought, you decided to explore all holes and crevices by poking the stick inside; I assume you were hoping that some kind of critter would come crawling out. It never did.

However, one of your sticks broke, in the process.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Somehow in the midst of all that, you skinned your leg. The funny thing is, you never seemed to notice. Even when I brought it to your attention, you didn’t seem impressed.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

We finished our excursion with you climbing the gravel and dirt piles. You had been wanting to climb them for months, so the opportunity finally prevented itself.

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg) p13

I’d say we did a good job of killing an hour. And you learned an important lesson about life:

Sticks and stones may break other sticks and stones… and maybe even skins your leg, as well.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Sticks and Stones May Break Other Sticks and Stones (and Skin Your Leg)

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack,

You are I are Southerners; born and bred. We are rough, tough, and dangerous. So while Mommy buys groceries on Saturday mornings, you and I go look for trouble… I mean, adventure.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

This past Saturday we decided to climb some mountains around our neighborhood. Both of these “mountains” were technically large piles of dirt that had been pushed in piles while the neighborhoods were being developed.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

I actually filmed some webisodes of my show Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest on them…

As I mentioned last week, when you and I get together, we are always dangerous… we just don’t get hurt.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

On our way up the mountains, which were very steep, I let you lead the way- so if you stumbled and fell, I could catch you.That’s exactly what happened at one point.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

And on the way down the mountains, I led the way- again, I could catch you if you started sliding.

We noticed there was a 3 or 4 foot deep trench that was dug out leading up to the base of one of the mountains. You immediately decided it was in your best interest as an explorer to jump across this trench, back and forth as we journeyed.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

I was very surprised at your ability to jump across these wide trenches. You are quite agile!

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

After a couple hours of traversing across the unpredictable landscape of suburban Tennessee, we decided to finish off the morning by throwing rocks into a huge mud puddle in the parking lot next to where I parked my Honda Element.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

When I asked you what your favorite part of the morning was, you replied, “What we’re doing right now.”

I took that as a compliment. Despite the high-octane excursions we had just encountered, you could appreciate the time we just stood there next to each other, throwing gravels into water, watching the mud stir up in the water like storm clouds.

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

But you had one more idea in mind before we left to go back home and help Mommy unpack the groceries from Sprouts:

“Daddy, can we drive through that puddle?”

My dependable and paid-off 2004 Honda Element with 155,000 miles and a salvaged title is only worth $500 at this point. So I figured, what’s the worst that could happen?

The answer: just the need for a car wash.

And that, ended up truly being your favorite part of our morning together.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Went Mountain Climbin’, Trench Jumpin’, and Muddin’

Dear Jack: Our New Canon PowerShot G7 X Camera

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Our New Canon PowerShot G7 X Camera

Dear Jack,

Last weekend you and I got to test out our brand-new camera: a Canon PowerShot G7 X.

We picked up right where we left off from the weekend before, when we followed that creek to the treehouse.

Whereas my new toy was the camera, your new toy was a gift card holder, which is a functioning toy tractor from Tractor Supply Company.

j1

You made it your mission to run that red tractor through the water and soot in the creek. I served as your camera man.

I love our new camera. The camera I’ve been using for the past 4 and a half years up until this point was the 2011 version of the Canon PowerShot, which was only 12 megapixels.

Dear Jack: Our New Canon PowerShot G7 X Camera

Apparently that’s my favorite brand. I find it very user friendly and absolutely durable. Mommy and I dropped the last one several times and it never damaged the camera at all.

With the upgraded version, we now have 20 megapixels, plus a 1 inch sensor which causes the background to blur; giving the images a more professional look.

Dear Jack: Our New Canon PowerShot G7 X Camera

(Thanks to Best Buy for their educated staff, who were able to enlighten me!)

With your sister Holly scheduled to be born in less than a month, and with you starting Kindergarten this fall, Mommy and I figured it was the right time for a new camera.

j4

As for our journey in the neighborhood walking park a few neighborhoods away from us, we trekked on far enough to discover a really cool school playground.

Dear Jack: Our New Canon PowerShot G7 X Camera

Now that we’ve been exploring the surrounding neighborhoods for the past couple of weekends, I have a feeling this will be the norm for us; that we will try to squeeze in an exploring journey whenever we can.

While Mommy’s taking care of the baby this summer, I’ll be there to guide you to excitement in the great outdoors.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our New Canon PowerShot G7 X Camera

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

5 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

Dear Jack,

I’m overly aware of the importance of making sure you get your fair share of attention and quality time, with your sister Holly on the way.

So last weekend, while Nonna and Papa were in town, we made sure we had nothing but fun adventures with you; knowing that two months from now, that sort of opportunity may not be as easy to make happen.

On Saturday morning, you and I took Papa to the The Crag in Cool Springs, near where I work. You’ve always enjoyed the climbing walls at playgrounds so Mommy and I figured you’d want to join Papa and me.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

While Papa and I spent our time literally jumping off the walls, your favorite activity was swinging on the ropes; which is not an official activity there, but you made it your own.

After we left The Crag, a spur-of-the-moment idea hit me…

Back a couple of months ago during the blizzard, I had filmed an episode of my web series Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest in the storm drain near my office.

After you saw it, you told me you would like to go there sometime with Papa and me. Since the opportunity presented itself, we went for it.

Through our exploration, we even discovered more tunnels I myself never knew were there. It technically was a bit dangerous, but that’s a good thing when you’re with Papa and me.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

The next day, you and I went with both Nonna and Papa to a playground and park nearby our house. I must say, you were very eager to show off your climbing wall skills.

After you conquered the playground, you and Papa and me discovered a hidden creek.

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

I was especially proud of you when you agreed to “walk on water” with me. The rocks stood out of the water just enough for us to strategically walk across without getting our feet too wet.

After you conquered the playground, you and Papa and me discovered a hidden creek.

We had some great adventures this past weekend. I’m glad you like doing the same kind of stuff as me!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Climbing Walls, Exploring Tunnels, and Walking on Water

My “Uncle Nick Groundhog Day Special” Accurately Predicted the Groundhog Wouldn’t See His Shadow this Year

My “Uncle Nick Groundhog Day Special” Accurately Predicted the Groundhog Wouldn’t See His Shadow this Year

Sure, I know. There was a 50% chance I’d guess it right.

But for what it’s worth, the most recent webisode of my original series, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, takes place on the morning of Groundhog Day and shows that there will indeed be a shorter winter because the “groundhog” can’t see his shadow.

When you watch the video, notice how the letter that Ralph the Red Panda reads clearly indicates the date: February 2nd, 2016. In other words, the setting is right now; not a generic year.

In reality, the webisode was actually filmed on the morning January 30th, and then released on YouTube on the morning of February 1st.

Clearly, all the content and production of this webisode was filmed before Febrary 2nd.

In this webisode, the “substitute groundhog” explains that while the winter will be short and that spring will be arriving sooner, there will be a “dark cloud” in the Enchanted Forest this year.

A new story arc is presented in which it is told that the animals of the Enchanted Forest will have to band together against the “dark cloud”.

After 20 webisodes of Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, I decided to spice things up by adding the concept of a villain; something that has never really happened up unto this point; unless you count the quickly converted Freddie the Fox in the first 3 webisodes.

As the writer and director, I want to see character development of the animals as they must use teamwork to keep peace in the Enchanted Forest.

I wanted that “dark cloud” to contrast the weather, as to not paint the setting too dim. Therefore, I chose for the “groundhog” to not be able to see his shadow, which makes the “dark cloud” stand out that much more.

Stayed tuned, as the upcoming episodes will feature a fresh and more complex storyline as the “dark cloud” is officially introduced in Webisode 21: Bruno the Blue Jay.

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

5 years.

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

Dear Jack,

Last weekend we met up with one of Mommy’s seven brothers and his family in Bryson City, North Carolina; where we boarded the Polar Express (from the the movie and book of the same title).

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

We turned in our golden tickets to get on the train and were shortly after given hot chocolate, before riding past Santa’s house and toy shop in the North Pole.

My personal favorite part was when Santa entered our train car, and out of your pocket you pulled some catalog clippings of items on your wish list, from the store Brilliant Sky.

I had no idea you had schemed this!

Forget the traditional wish list… you were all prepared with a full color ad of exactly what you wanted. You were ready and waiting for that exact moment and opportunity.

(Santa was actually unaware that one of those items was on your list, so it looks like Christmas shopping isn’t quite complete yet.

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

Every Christmas until now, your visit to Santa has been at the Bass Pro Shop in Nashville; during which you’ve been slightly intimidated to talk to him.

Not this time. You were all business.

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

Santa immediately tucked the catalog clippings into his pocket and reminded you, “Now be a good boy for me.”

You matter-of-factly agreed and then Santa was on his way to the kid in the sit next to you.

Despite the natural shakiness of the train, one of my pictures that turned out the best was the one of you with Santa.

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

Not only was this an amazing experience because you got to meet Santa this year, but also because it took place on a train.

What 5 year-old little boy doesn’t have an appreciation and/or fascination for trains?

You’ve already asked when we can ride the Polar Express again.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Ride on the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina