The JoyBell Ringers' Sweet Water Tour was PRACTICALLY PERFECT in every way! The weather was perfect every single day! Nobody got sick or hurt. None of the vehicles got sick or hurt. and Miss Charlotte didn't get sick or hurt, which really is miraculous considering I started the trip on only two hours of sleep! We travelled 5 days and rang 7 times ranging from just 3 selections to our entire concert program of 16 pieces at a consistently high level of performance.
Here is a recap of the trip:
(There are a ton of pictures (that I didn't take) and some videos of pieces we played at this website: The JoyBell Rigners website
And here is a link to a news article about our performance at St. Barnabas in Chattanooga: )
We played for an hour at the Southwest Virginia Mental Health Institute in Marion Va. They provided a nice box lunch for us that we ate in the park on their beautiful grounds. We then drove to Sevierville, Tn where we played a half hour program between their Wed. evening meal and activities. Oh, and they fed us yummy, homemade chicken and dumplings! We drove on to Chattanooga and spent the night at a hotel that we booked for their indoor pool, but the pool was closed. And that was the ONLY thing that went wrong the whole trip!
We played for about an hour in the morning at the St. Barnabas skilled nursing and rehab center in downtown Chattanooga. I didn't get this set up until just Monday of that week!!! We had two other venues cancel on us for that day. This was a lovely place and they were so delighted and enthusiastic to have us play for them. We had two big pans of spaghetti left over from our fundraiser dinner that we took with us on the trip, and they heated it up for us in their oven while we played and served us our lunch in their pretty little park, where I got to see my first azaleas blooming this year! After our lunch, we embarked on the "mystery tour." First we took a tour of the Chattanooga waterfront aboard a WWII amphibious "Duck" vehicle. The kids absolutely loved it! Our tour guide regaled them with non-stop stories of Civil War battles and the renaissance of the waterfront area. He even let all of them that wanted to, drive the duck in the river! After the tour, they had about an hour to explore the visitor center and aquarium plaza, then it was off to the IMAX theater to see a movie about the Hubble telescope in 3D, which was AWESOME! We ate barbeque at Sticky Fingers, walked all around the waterfront and across the Walnut Street Bridge which is the third longest pedestrian bridge in the world. After a stop at Coldstone Creamery, we hit the road and spent the night in Kennesaw, GA at a very nice, new Comfort Suites, whose pool was open.
Friday was dedicated to visiting the world's largest aquarium in Atlanta GA, where I got to fulfill a dream that has been on my bucket list for at least 40 years: I got to actually swim with the fish!!! Yes, I went SCUBA diving in the Ocean tank! 6.3 million gallons of water. It is literally the size of a football field and 30 feet deep! Over 80 species from all around the world in one tank. I was flipping out excited, and it so much fun to do that while all my kids were there to cheer me on. We rang Capriccio together while I was in the tank. Then, as my guests at the aquarium that day, all 18 of them got to take the "Behind the Scenes" tour of the inner workings of the aquarium while I was finishing up my dive. That tour is normally a $50 add on to the price of admission!!! Can we say, That was a GOD moment?!?! After the aquarium, we had dinner at The Varsity, the world's largest drive in restaurant, and a famous Atlanta institution. I was told that this was an experience not to be missed. The kids loved it, but I beg to differ after standing in the very crowded, noisy, long line twice to get our order filled. We drove back out to Marietta to spend the night at First Presbyterian Church. The kids stayed up watching Star Trek, and I went to bed.
We started off with a concert at the Presbyterian Village retirement community in Austell, GA. One lady came up to me afterwards with tears filling her eyes and said, "I am 87 years old, and I have NEVER heard anything so beautiful in all my life!!" Imagine that! a "Bell Virgin" at 87! That alone would have been worth the whole trip. We picked up lunch afterwards and headed to the Kennesaw Mountain National Civil War Battlefield Park for a picnic, and for me, a relaxing, QUIET walk in the woods, before we had to get back and prepare for our evening concert They served us a great lasagna dinner, and we played our full length program for them in their historic 1855 sanctuary. This was an incredible, vibrant space to play in! Afterwards, they fed us again with a lavish reception.
We had another royal meal (breakfast) provided by First Pres. and then we played 3 pieces at the 8:30 service, and 5 pieces in the 9:45 service. One of them was Grazioso, that we performed with their adult handbell choir . . . without having any rehearsal together! I snuck out of the 8:30 service to practice it with their folks, and then we just hit it! We loaded up the bells one last time, and hit the road. We stopped for lunch at a little city park just north of Atlanta, and then we stopped a lot more times, and then we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Mooresville, and then we stopped some more, and we finally got home about 10:30 that night: a 6 hour trip that took only 11 hours! And that, my friends, concludes the Sweet Water Tour!