Friday, April 25, 2008

To be or Not To Be. . . .

my last day on the road.

From Harrison, I couldn't make up my mind of whether to stay on US-412 and head into Oklahoma or stay on US-62. I ended up staying on US-62 and headed up through Berryville, to Eureka Springs and then up into Missouri on MO-37. My target nightly destination was Winfield KS and try a Wal*Mart parking lot, get on the road early and get into home.

I was craving seeing some more Dogwood trees as I had fallen in love with them. So guess what? At Berryville AR, I stopped at a local nursery and BOUGHT two dogwood trees - a white one and a red one! The red one is sort of pinkish, so that one is for my two plus year Breast Cancer Survivor daughter to be planted in her back yard; and the second one I would plant at my little house, where I park my trailer.

Anyway, I headed to Winfield on US-160. I had heard on the radio about severe storms overnight in the area. Yuk, not again I thought. I don't want to stay in a Wal*Mart parking lot with winds buffeting me around and rain. Besides, I didn't want to drive on two-lane roads after dark and with possible storms, I also didn't really want to drive the Interstate home and through Wichita. Oh what should I do. I drove to Wellington, just along I-35 and decided to have dinner at Penny's Diner, a cute retro 50's era diner. I called my daughter and said "I am coming home!" "Are you sure you want to drive that far this late?", she said. "Sure, I am game."

Well, I did. Took I-35 thru Wichita (not bad) and headed to Salina, exited at the I-70 interchange and headed west. Just before the Sylvan Grove exit (#209 and 70 miles from home), daughter calls me and asks if there is lightening in the area. I said h_ _ _ _ _ _ _ is there lightening in the area! Well, she said, there are very red areas on radar close to the area you are in indicating a bad storm just up ahead. I pulled off at the exit to loosen my sway bar and just opened the truck door; and blam the wind blew the door shut pushing me back into the cab. And, just in time too as the clouds opened up with buckets!

I drove home with the sway bar still in its dry road position, me praying that I wouldn't have any trouble and trying to stay in the semi-trucks tire paths down the highway. It would rain and it would let up a bit and then pour again and then let up. When I finally got to the turn off for home, the rain had pretty much quit. I made it home at 11:55 p.m. with daughter and her dog Buster waiting for me. Buster wasn't quite sure who I was but by morning he remembered.

This past week, I have taken everything out of the trailer for cleaning - a thorough cleaning, ordered a new bed mattress that will be more comfortable since I am really serious about this long-term traveling now, and built a frame area for the mattress to keep it from sliding around. I am making plans for my September/October sojourn already; and, daughter and I are ready to plant the dogwood tree in her backyard, which we are doing tonight with her dad here. And the dogwood tree is planted!

Tomorrow will be my first day back at my part-time job. I can't wait until Labor Day weekend gets here when I'll be off again. Until some time later, happy summer days.

PS I fixed fried cabbage tonight. I thought it was good, but just a tad bit too much salt this time.

PPS Diana in last posting comment: Stay tuned and maybe, just maybe we'll run into each other out there and you with your Casita also. Emily

Water, Water Everywhere

I debated staying another night at Piney Campground (see posting below) in LBL, but with possible storms entering the area I opted to head west again. The next night I spent in Crowley’s Ridge State Park, near Paragould AR. I went through Paris TN (seems to be a favorite town name), to Martin on TN-54 and TN-22 to Union City, then took US-51 south to Dyersburg. This is when I started encountering the swollen rivers and waters from the overflowing Mississippi River. A lot of farmland was underwater in the Delta area and looked like huge lakes on either side of the roadway - with trees growing in the “lakes”.

I crossed the Mighty Mississippi River near Caruthersville AR on I-155/US-412. It seemed like it took forever to get from one side to the other because of all the water on both sides. You could tell it was flowing pretty fast too. The water was up to Caruthersville and a little town of Hayti. At the junction of I-55 and I-155, I continued on US-412 thru Kennet (the hometown of Sheryl Crow) to Paragould and Crowley’s Ridge State Park.

Crowley’s Ridge is another interesting historical and geological spot. This is another area covered by ocean millions of years ago. The eventual retreat of the ocean left behind marine sediments and fossils. Geological evidence shows that a gently rolling plain, consisting of layers of clay, sand and gravel, extended from Little Rock to Memphis. During the decline of the Ice Age, two major river systems - the Ohio and the Mississippi - scoured out massive trenches - the Mississippi carved away at the area between Little Rock and the western edge of the Ridge, and the Ohio carved out the area between Memphis and the eastern edge of the Ridge. This thin strip of land became known as Crowley’s Ridge. The Ridge, eventually became settled and a few towns sprang up - Jonesboro being one of them. The Ridge is named after Benjamin Crowley, a pioneer of the area.

The State Park is a beautiful area and the dogwoods were in their best form. This Park is small with only 18 sites but there are several other State Parks with camping in the area, many with great fishing opportunities, they boast.

The next morning I continued my westward trek across northern Arkansas on US-412. At Black Rock, I encountered a raging Black River, which is a tributory of the White River at Jacksonport. People were gawking at the overflow - as was I - and one had to keep an eye on the traffic at the same time. Fortunately, Black Rock was built high up off the River. I am now entering the Arkansas Ozarks and the terrain has become very windy with lots of ups and downs - the familiar roller coaster ride. I pass through Cherokee Village and Mountain Home. One little town, I want to go back and visit, is the little historic town of Hardy. It is an apt name for the town and the folks who live there. The Spring River runs through and it has proved to be a testy River for the locals this spring. The town has endured three floodings within a month and to top that off within the same time frame, a tornado that almost wiped out the west end of town. Thankfully the historic part, or downtown, was missed but the newer part up on the flat part of the ridge (a “tornado magnet”) was hit hard. I was told that Oprah Winfrey was coming to town that afternoon to do a segment for her Big Give show (don’t know air date). Many interesting shops downtown, including antiques and the Flat Creek Dulcimer Shop. I had an excellent Reuben sandwich at the Hardy Malt Shoppe, an old fashioned ice cream parlor with a 50’s & 60’s atmosphere.

Following US-412, I ended up for two nights in Harrison AR, staying at Parker’s RV Park on the west edge of town. The folks were great and the campground was good, except for the highway noise but it settled down after dark. It would be a good place to go exploring around the area as many Ozark attractions are near by, so it could be a place to return to for exploring for me. Here I was able to catch up on my blog. The second day there, I stayed inside pretty much because of lots of smoke from controlled burns being conducted by the Forest Service southward. I later learned from the local TV news, that there was a “red flag” condition, meaning that there should be no outside burning due to wind conditions. DUH?

Well tomorrow will be either my next to last day on the road OR the last day on the road.

Quaint and Charming

The next night was spent in a Forest Service campground called Piney Campground located on the Tennessee end of Land Between the Lakes, a very interesting geological and historically area. My first time experience with a small sundries store at a government campground. Kentucky Lake is experiencing an abundance of water and some of the camp sites were not available then. Both the Tennessee (Kentucky Lake) and Cumberland (Lake Barkley) Rivers empty into the Ohio River. There are several other campgrounds around the area, including a horse camp. I encountered a number of horse camps in western Kentucky and Tennessee.

I left Bowling Green around my usual time of 10 a.m. and headed west out of the KOA campground only to encounter a barricaded and blocked road. It seems there was a race going on and the road by the Campground was part of the course - so here I am surrounded by racers only I was going against the grain! I finally got pulled over at an entrance to a housing subdivision (or divisionS is more like it) and was told to find the road I needed by somehow getting thru the subdivisions. Oh yah, sure. It took me over 20 minutes to get out of the subdivision(s) onto the road I needed, only to have the part I needed blocked again. Once again, I had to go thru ANOTHER housing subdivision to get to the other side and get to US-68. Whew!

US-68 is a nice four-lane parkway like road and through pretty countryside dotted with farms and small towns. I didn’t see big farm equipment, like I am use to seeing in this part of the country. In fact, I didn’t really see much of any farm equipment. As I drove closer to Elton and towards Hopkinsville, I believe I saw why. I had noticed horse droppings on the side of the road, then I came across a horse and buggy yellow sign, then I came upon a horse and buggy with a family in it. I do not know what ethnic group they are in that area, but it reminded me of the transportation used by the Mennonites near Yoder KS. Probably an Anabaptist group. Then I saw a really innovative way to get around - to neighbors or to the local community. Saw this on two occasions. Pulling behind one of those small blue Ford tractors, with an open cab with a roof overhead, was a former pickup bed trailer. The trailer had three sides and a roof. Each side had a window. In the pickup bed trailer, sat the spouse and children on stools or a bench. They used the side of the road just as the folks with the horse and buggy and had that big “slow moving vehicle” sign attached to the back. I also saw throughout Kentucky and other states, many barn quilts. These are traditional quilt patterns that are being painted on wood squares, at least 8-foot by 8-foot, which are then mounted high on the fronts of barns or other farm outbuildings. Many communities, I have learned, have tours in their area on their barn quilts. I have chosen for my little trailer to use "Four Winds". I'll, someday, get a picture of what I end up with.

As I approached Fairview, I saw this very tall obelisk rising out and way, way above the trees and hillsides. As it turns out, it is 351 feet tall, the tallest unreinforced concrete obelisk in the world as no steel was used to reinforce the concrete. It is the 5th tallest monument in the U.S. It was started in 1917 and completed in 1924. The walls are 8.5 feet thick at the base and tapering to 2.5 feet thick at the top observation. There is an elevator, which I did not take. The Monument was built in recognition of the only President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis. He was born in Fairview in a log cabin (not there anymore) and they celebrate his birthday every year.

I went around Hopkinsville and headed for Land Between the Lakes (or LBL) entering on the Kentucky side. I stopped at the Visitor Center (there are 3 of them - at the north end, in the middle at Golden Pond, and at the south end to learn more about the land and its history. I have added a Wikipedia explanation, in a shorter version than at the Visitor Center. Again, an interesting history. I drove down The Trace, as the road is called in the LBL to Piney Campground.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Storms at Bowling Green

I left the Lexington area following the Kentucky Bluegrass Parkway, a beautiful drive along a scenic route with out Billboards. Again, the trees were budding out and I, again, continue to never tire of seeing nature’s beauty along the way.

Near Bardstown, I exited the Parkway to take US-31E toward Hodgenville, an area where Abraham Lincoln was born and spent his young childhood. I did see a log cabin that had been claimed by previous owners, before the Nat’l Park Service, that it was the log cabin Abe Lincoln was born in. This particular area, known as Knob Creek, is an area where Lincoln was born and raised and is the only Kentucky area he remembers as a youth. In 1998, Congress passed and the President signed legislation authorizing the area to be added to the NPS by “donation only.” Many organizations and the State of Kentucky contributed funds for the purchase of the 228-acre farm. Exactly three years later, the area became part of the NPS as a unit of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. The structure is currently closed but you can walk around the area during daylight hours

Also in the area, is where Stephen Foster wrote the song “My Old Kentucky Home” at Bardstown and Abe Lincoln’s National Historic Site and Visitor Center is near Hodgenville. Unforfuntately, I didn’t go the Visitor Center as I turned the wrong way on KY-61 and by the time I realized it and found a turnaround spot, I was almost back to the Parkway. It’s on my list of places to see next time I get to Kentucky.

Back on the now Western Kentucky Parkway, starting at Elizabethtown, the country side is open with still rolling hills but more acreage devoted to farming and cattle raising. I turned southward onto the Wm H. Natcher Parkway to Bowling Green. After a few wrong turns and finally understanding the road layout of Bowling Green, I made it to the KOA campground on the west side of town and near I-65.

Upon checking the weather forecast for the area, I decided to leave the trailer hooked up, as strong and severe storms, with possible tornadic activity, was expected sometime in the night. Oh it came. The winds were very high and the rains came. Was I surprised the next morning, while watching the local news on TV, about the high winds causing a lot of building and tree damage in the area especially in the town of Bowling Green. Poking my head outside the next morning to see if anything had happened at the campground - nope just a few twigs down, no trees down or rolled RV’s and little Eggcarto was still upright. Apparently, the west side of town escaped the damaging winds.

I decided to stay another night (weather was expected to be nice) and get caught up on my blog. I had been encouraged by some area Casita owners to pay a visit to the National Corvette Museum, so put that on my list of things to do for the day.
My, my what a Museum that is. Even if you are not into cars, it is still worth stopping to see when you are in the area. Remembering when the first ones came out, I spent more time reminiscing with the 50’s and 60’s Corvettes as they have been my favorites over the years. The displays are attractive and the history is interesting. I ended up buying a couple of T-shirts.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thoughts & Collections

I did forget to mention, in the last posting, about fudge. The best fudge I have had in a long time came from Stearns KY. But, I must say I have not developed a liking for grits - no matter how much I doctor them up, I still eat only a bite or two.

As you know, the South has been experiencing lots of different weather - rain, tornadoes, wind damage, etc. The next morning, we woke up to the creek behind Bonnie’s house over it’s banks, way over it’s banks. As I said earlier, her house is up on a hill and was a far way from the swollen creek, but neighbors behind her at a lower elevation were getting their backyards flooded. We later learned that the Lexington area had received 5 inches overnight. In driving around the Paris area over the next couple of days, we encountered flooded roadways. (Read the sign in the picture to right)

Friday, we visited Indian Creek Farms, where she is in partnership with several other investors, on a couple of brood mares who just had had foals, drove around the various roads on the Farm with me oooohing and awwwwwing at the beauty, many new foals and just taking it all in. We went to Keeneland Race Track, saw some horses working out, walked around the Track. It is really a beautifully landscaped place with everything where it is and what it is with safety of the horses in mind. An owner, or owners, have lots of $$$$$ invested or spent on those beautiful animals. It’s a business to them, just like raising dogs, cats, mules, or a race car is to a racing owner or a speed boat is to a speed boat owner.

Around the Paris area, I noticed these beautiful limestone fences. Here is a good website with pictures. All very neatly made with horizontal slabs placed on the top. The highway between Paris and Lexington has a lot of big name Farms along the way and all with this type of limestone fencing along the highway. Bonnie explained that when they put the highway in, the State Transportation Dept. had to replace all the fencing it had to tear down in the process of building the 2-lane “parkway”. In addition, in the new limestone fencing, there had to be “critter holes” at ground level for all those small creatures to get thru - didn’t matter they didn’t have them in the old fencing as guess they knew where to get thru those. Also, anytime the fencing is destroyed - falling trees, vehicle accident, etc., the Transportation Dept. has to repair the fence to it’s original state. They have trained prisoners to do this work and had crews out almost every day I was there. The picture I have included here for you to see the beautiful fencing, is at the entrance to a farm owned by Gains dog food .

I did get to tour another famous horse farm and that was Claiborne Farms. A beautiful place that I was told by Bonnie and the tour guide, likes to continue doing horse raising and breeding the old tried and proven way. It is a very relaxed environment around there. Bonnie is having a mare of hers bred to Political Force and he is a beautiful gray. We got to see Eddington, who earned over $1 mil in his career on the tracks. I got to pat and stand next to Pulpit, who has sired many winners in his career and because of that he has an $80,000 stud fee. Another stallion I saw but didn’t get close to as he wasn’t getting his peppermint candy and became a bit irritated, was Seeking the Gold, who earned over $2 mil in his racing career. His stud fee is $125,000. See why it takes bucoo bucks. I also saw the grounds of Calumet Farms, located next to Keeneland Race Track. Bonnie briefly told me the rise and fall of the Farms history and suggested reading the book: Wild Ride, The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc. Everything is red and white, even the tulips blooming at the entrances.

I did get to see horses working out before the weekly racing started on Wednesday, Curlin, War Pass and Pyro, strong Kentucky Derby winner hopefuls, are stabled at Keeneland and I did get to see War Pass run. There are other hopefuls I saw too stabled at Keeneland.

On Sunday, we picked up Grandma Pearl (no relation), who is 95 years young and is quite capable of getting around good, and went to Blue Licks State Park Lodge for their Sunday Buffet. Oh my, oh my was it ever good, really good. Grandma Pearl is from Johnson County KY and it seems like everyone in TN and KY are from a county, not a town. (Picture at right is Grandma Pearl and my friend Bonnie.)

After eating, we drove up to a little town of Washington. This is a pre-Revolutionary War
town. The US Post Office is an original log cabin and this building was on a portion of the original National Pike and the building served as a mail stop for the area. This is on a branch that went from Zanesville, through Lexington to New Orleans. Other buildings date back to the same period. There are some quaint shops in the town worth looking through, if you are in the area. We continued our drive up to Maysville, on the Ohio River - another old town worth exploring. There is a dike along the Ohio on the KY side to protect the town, which had been flooded many times years ago. In fact, we could see evidence of the Ohio flooding up to the bottom of the dike just in the last few days. On the other side there wasn’t any sign of a dike so they probably experienced flooding along the River’s edge. Another interesting town we went to was Midway KY.

We also visited a historic sight near Lexington. This is a famous bourbon distillery nestled in a valley between hills that has an interesting history over the years. It is set in, again, the beautiful Bluegrass country. Woodford Reserve, Well worth a visit. The tour is about an hour and half, and there is a gift shop and museum if you don’t wish to take the tour. In fact, there are a number of distillery tours around the area and the State has a Distillery Tour mapped out. I still like my Black Jack, even if it is a Tennessee Whiskey.

On Wednesday, the day before my departure I fell down some stairs at Bonnie’s house due to my own carelessness. I turned my ankle and bummed up my left knee. Did the usual things - ice, elevate it but I still wanted to got to the races on Wednesday. Which we did. Thursday morning I headed out westward towards western KY and who knows where I would be stopping.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

All About Eating

This is about eating, eating and eating - some pretty good eatin’, Oh, where do I start - okay with desserts: I haven’t had a really good piece of cheesecake in the South, but Bonnie had the best blueberry cheesecake pie. She also made the best potato salad by the way. The best Key Lime pie was from Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar & Grill in Apalachicola FL. They also had the best hush puppies too. As for cakes, the best is a 4-layer Red Velvet from Joe’s BBQ in a little town of Menlo GA, if I remember right. Oh, can’t forget the bourbon balls from Keeneland Race Track and Woodford Reserve in the Lexington area. Bread pudding (warmed) with a bourbon sauce from Keeneland Race Track was (almost) to die for. Can’t pinpoint cobblers as they were all good - Southern's know how to make cobblers.

Loved the fried cabbage and johnnycakes from the little cafe at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris TN. The fresh green beans, chopped tomatoes, red onion and black-eyed peas combination on the buffet line at Blue Licks State Park Lodge in KY was a really combination. They also had the best white gravy. Jeri (LA) fixed a really good turnip and spinach dinner that I’d like to duplicate. I never did find any good fried chicken - the best to me is the original from KFC! It’s southern in origin. I loved the blackened shrimp Geri (FL) let me try in Apalachicola. The best rolls I had were from the Blue Licks Lodge. Oh, Bonnie had a California cut to a top sirloin that was seasoned and grilled and was so tender.

And, I cannot forget the tea - I am finally getting use to asking for unsweetened tea! It sounds like that is all I have been doing is eating - you're right!

Well,am headed to western KY and TN, slowly working my way home and doing some sightseeing too. I went to the National Corvette Museum, here in Bowling Green yesterday. More on that later when I catch up.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Buzzzzzzing of the Blinds!

I left the Blue Heron SP campground in a rain. It rained and rained and rained. Before leaving I went down into the canyon to see the Nat’l Park Services interpretative construction of the former coal mining town - Blue Heron. It was even raining harder and clouds were climbing the hills I had just come down. Four or five guys were down fishing and they probably thought “tourist in rain, stupid” thoughts, but thoughts are mutual. The NPS had built outline buildings of a number of buildings - company store, school, house, other structures instrumental to telling the story of coal mining. Each building had script you could read about that particular structure. There are narratives from locals also in each structure that relate meaning and stories about the company store say. I enjoyed the venture around the town and would recommend it, but not when it was pouring down. I later thought back about how high the creek must have risen with the subsequent rainfall. Wonder if the fisherman stayed? Stupid, if they did.

My drive to Paris continued in rain. I worked my way over to I-75, via US-27 to KY-914, K-80, K-481; drove northward to KY-627 just north of Richmond and came out at Winchester on I-64. I crossed over I-64 and continued on K-627 to Paris. It was a very narrow road winding through beautiful horse farm area. What I could see while navigating the curves and hills and curves on top of hills, I fell in love with. My friend Bonnie said I picked the worse way into Paris. I called her at Winchester to get directions to her house. I got thru all those turns and lights okay until I went one block too far on her street. I called her and said “I am on Redbud Street, how do I get to your street?” She’d never heard of Redbud Street so had no idea what directions to give me. Okay, I turned around in a cul-de-sac and went back to a main street and started over from that point. And, wala I was only one block off!

I parked the rig on the street until her son Todd (5th one done on page) came home from work at Indian Creek Farms. Because she had a curvy downhill driveway and to the right I decided to let the expert back down. He did a dang good job too and made it look so easy. He said it was a lot harder than it looked because he’s not use to single axles.

Bonnie is one tough cookie. She comes from a farming and ranching background. She got into the horse business first with quarter horses and then thoroughbreds a number of years ago. Meanwhile, over the last 14 years she has had to endure 6 rounds of chemo treatments for breast cancer. Each time she was able to come thru and then a couple years later she endured another session of treatments. This time it’s rougher on her as it is in her bones and several lymph nodes; but, she’s determined to beat it and has found the best way to do it is by staying busy as long as her strength lets her. Hence, we were busy doing things all the time I was there for a week.

I did some laundry and Bonnie fixed a delicious dinner. About the time we went to bed, it started raining, and it rained and it rained. She has a creek behind her house and fortunately her house is rather high on a hill. During the night, a lightening bolt broke very close to the house and the first time I heard the metal blinds buzzzzzzzing, I didn’t know what it was. A few seconds later, again a lightening bolt broke right over the house (we found no evidence of a burn spot anywhere in the yard, so assume it was a cloud to cloud bolt) and once again the blinds buzzzzzzed. Each time my bedroom was lit up brighter than daylight. A third time the bolt broke nearby, the blinds did not respond. I know it was the blinds making the noise. Didn’t get much sleep that night as it kept raining and thundering until daylight.

Turkeys, coal and Norris TN

When I woke up from my nap this afternoon (Wed, 4/2) I thought I was still in the Smoky Mountains as smoke is covering the whole area. A call to 911 (just in case) revealed that the Forest Service is doing a controlled burn north of here while the winds are quiet. Severe weather is due in tomorrow so that should dampen any possibility of fires spreading (hopefully).

I am composing this segment of the blog from the Blue Heron Nat’l Park Service Campground near Stearns KY. This area is part of the Big South Fork Nat’l River & Recreation Area, part of the Daniel Boone Nat’l Forest. As of a just a few minutes ago, I am the only one here. Fairly nice campground. And, I backed into my site without toooooo much effort. Didn’t take as many attempts as at Norris.

Okay, where is Stearns you are saying, I can’t find it on the map. It’s about 30 miles west of Williamsburg (on I-75), near Pine Knot, Whitley City. Stearns is a National Historic Town. All this area was heavily into coal mining and logging. There is a scenic railroadto take you from Stearns to Blue Heron. I am driving there tomorrow morning, since the railroad is not running yet. Blue Heron, is a Nat’l Park Service outdoor interpretive site of the old coal mining town. Tom and Cheryl, from the Alabama gathering, told me about this place.

Okay to back up a bit. I did some research at the little local Norris Library and came up with two addresses of where my grandparents lived while here. I also found an article that explained why the Bureau of Mines was here. (Yuk, just went outside to get my notes and the truck and trailer are covered with ashes.) Originally, the project was to develop processes for refining ceramic raw materials found in the Valley and to promote markets for these materials. Eventually, W.W.II added additional needs to develop use of nonmetallic or industrial minerals in war use.

I drove by the two residences where they lived. I did not recognize the first one but did the second one. Oh wow, lots of memories were there, but it was well worth the time spent.

I went to the Museum of Appalachia, at Norris, and spent a great 3 hours going thru the place. This is an excellent collection of pioneer, cultural, antique and everyday items from interesting and colorful mountain folk.

(Mark Twain Family Cabin above right)The buildings are real and have been moved to the location simulating what it would be like living and working in the Southern Appalachia area, for example the Mark Twain Family Cabin moved to the Museum from ‘Possum Trot, TN. It once served as the home of Twain’s parents and some of their children before the family left Tennessee in 1835, before Mark Twain was born. During the season (usually starts around early April), there are craftsmen demonstrating blacksmithing, broom making, weaving to name a few; along with musicians gathered here and there since music was such a big part of the family’s life. I did get to meet the founder, John Rice Irwin, and he’s my image of a Southern Gentleman from yesteryear. It is well worth a visit and they have delicious food at their little cafe too. I had a Tennessee Casserole, pinto beans and fried cornbread, and fried cabbage for lunch. I loved that fried cabbage and hope I can find a recipe for it.

MORNING! Oh drat I just spilled my bowl of raisin bran on the floor, luckily I hadn’t put the milk in yet. Coffee is just about done so that will make up for the spill.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and a bit early to start breaking down and heading down to Blue Heron. I really do need to find a Laundromat before I get to Bonnie’s in Paris KY. Ninety percent of the hangers in my closet are empty and I double items up. Ahhhhhh morning coffee.

As I drive further north through the forests, the trees are more deciduous. If you have been reading my blogs very long or know me, I love pine forests. Add a little surf and I am (Left, pine tree w/little pine cones)really happy. So am not enjoying much pleasure from these forests now; although in 10-14 days they will be much prettier. The hillsides are showing a hint of green with spots here and there of white from a flowering tree, there are also splashes of shades of pink along with a blood red grouping here and there. Deciduous tree forests, to me anyway, are quite trashy - not human trashy - just nature trashy. There are a lot of fallen trees that have broken up when they hit the ground, a lot of underbrush and saplings, not to mention all the leaves (I know they are good for the earth). Maybe when it’s green it doesn’t look trashy. Where man has cleared the underbrush and has done a little bit of thinning, it’s not too bad.

Oh last night, I heard turkeys gobbling. The sound was coming from one area of the forest, so either they were “domestic” or wild. I like wild, gives me the feeling of really being in a forest.

History, Gatherings & Grandparents

Tuesday, April Fools Day: I haven’t written for a bit and this morning is rainy and it’s still dark outside as the sun hasn’t lightened up the sky; so what better time to get started. Didn’t really feel like writing but the mood has come back. And, since I have five days of activities to write about I had better get caught up.

History is an integral part of the South, just like it is in any other region of the US. Traditions, customs, language are uniquely theirs. History is one of my favorite subjects and I have found that Southerners like theirs and like to do something about it. The majority of Georgia towns I visited or went through have historical districts, very distinctly marked via signage. One town I went through was Acworth GA, near the McKinney Campground. Acworth is named after Acworth New Hampshire. It has it’s Civil War history, it’s rebirth history and has beautifully restored it’s downtown district. It’s not a big district but has very unique shops that would be worth investigating by someone interested in history and an interesting shopping and eating adventure. Not for me though, as I don’t have the need (maybe the want) for one thing, nor the room at home. I enjoy and retain the pleasures of what I see and like to tell others.

Across the street from the shops and stores in downtown is a parking area very tastefully landscaped and elevated enough to be able to see the three or four blocks along the main street. Perhaps there had been some businesses where the parking area is but today the parking area serves as a better purpose. I have learned to take all in as a unit and not spend a lot of time looking. If I look too long then I start nitpicking - the seemingly obtrusive “Closed” sign (was before 10 a.m.) that didn’t fit in with style. A sense came over me that there was a “Signature” look to what I was seeing, except for the interesting little cafe towards the end of the block. Signature being from the mind of one (or perhaps from one architectural firm), much like an artist’s work. Being very familiar with the Main Street program, it was like an architect (or his like-thinking firm) came in and presented a rendering of what the downtown could like and that is what was done. I like it and the contiguous look is very pleasing to the eye. I am sure they are very proud of what has been accomplished and I am too.

As I left the downtown area I inadvertently got into an older residential area nearby. I immediately had a feeling of being in a residential area of a small New England town. The sense was that the north (architecturally) had come to the south and was artfully blended together. It was an interesting feeling and I drove around for quite a while just looking (probably more gawking). I even saw a bit of the Craftsman style worked in.

When I left Acworth I stopped at the local Wal-Mart. I only mention this is because the architectural style of the store was beautiful. It wasn’t the big brown/blue box that you see with it’s big red Always over the doors. Wal-Mart must have really wanted to come to town. It is brick veneer all the way around, has wrought-iron fencing all the way around the parking lot, cupolas, and is beautifully landscaped. It looks like Wal-Mart inside. Congratulations to the Acworth community, on having such a beautiful addition to your town.

On my way to the Sequoyah Caverns Campground, near Valley Head AL, I stopped in Summerville and met Mike, a fellow Casita owner. I got a took a little break and visited he and his wife Kathy’s beautifully restored farmhouse. We sat on the back porch (oh was that nice too) and I had a hard time keeping my attention focused on what Mike was talking about, and not wandering off to the beautiful backyard, forests beyond, the Hills, flowering trees, listening to the birds. I would definitely spend a lot of time on that porch.

Now I am getting into the really hilly country and the roads are just like a roller coaster ride (more the old style - not the ones that twist you upside down nowadays), two lane with no shoulders. Up, up you go, twist to the right and then to the left and then back to the right again. Wow that was fun! And opps, what goes up must come down and now we do it all going downhill. I found the Caverns Campground finally. I didn’t use the directions that were posted in their brochure or website but came in a back way so to speak and arriving a day ahead of the others coming to this particular gathering.

The first in was Gus and Yvonne in a pop-up trailer, then Tom and Cheryl from Cookville TN with their ‘07 Casita, Mike and Kathy from Summerville GA with their ‘01 Casita, Dennis and Susie with a 13 foot Scamp, Sam from Enterprise AL with his Scamp, Ron and Stephanie from Chattanooga, and coming in on Saturday was Jason and Linda from Kansas City Kansas and their new to them Scamp (yes, they came all the way over just for the weekend and do a bit of sightseeing on the way home).

The weather wasn’t particularly hospitable but we did with rain or no rain. Saturday morning we did a flea market - this is the area for flea markets if you like to go to them as they are all over the place! I almost got a nice ride down the Interstate when Stephanie missed the turnoff to the flea market but she realized it in time and we backed up the on ramp (and they have loooooong ramps) and made it to the location - she had hoped that no one saw us but she didn’t get away with it.

Mike and I toured the Caverns and they were interesting, not real flamboyant but interesting - to us the entrance fee of $13, plus tax was high. I just hate it when gate or entrance fees are not published on brochures - sends up $$$ warning signs to me. And, having done many a brochure in my life, I can understand about not putting prices on some because those old ones will still be around and meanwhile prices have gone up since that printing. One of the coolest parts of the tour was when the guide turned off all the lights. It was totally dark in there. The guide told us because the eye is constantly looking for light and not finding any in there that it would go blind in three weeks. So remember that when you go caving.

Saturday night we had a potluck supper and sat around a campfire. It sprinkled for a few minutes but that didn’t dampen our together time.
It was so much fun visiting with those folks, and oh the stories that were told. Dennis could really put those yarns out there. I think all the men did a pretty good job of handling that part of the fireside chats. Oh, these Southern men can really tell the stories - and they are true as I believed every one of them! The wives are, understandably, as good humored as their husbands, they let their husbands tell the stories though - just something about a male voice and storytelling. Many of them will be getting together in Townsend TN in a few short weeks. I was so surprised to meet a young couple from Kansas and spent a bit of time talking with Jason and Linda. He is an outdoors person and has a number of adventures in his short life. I think Linda will be adding some to hers too and to her credit she is jumping in with both feet. I really had a fantastic time with them and it is one of the highlights of my trip.

I left the group on Sunday morning heading toward Norris TN. I headed up I-59 to Chattanooga, then taking I-24 thru and hooking up with I-75 to Cleveland TN. There I decided I didn’t want any more Interstate so headed east (or perhaps south or north, not sure which) to US411, then northeastward. At Maryville, I started getting sleepy so pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot to take a “short” nap. Hah. I ended up spending most of the night here, getting up around 4:00 a.m. and hitting the road. I thought I would hit Pigeon Forge (home of Dolly Pardon’s Dollywood) to say I had been there; and, got in a little before 6 a.m. After I saw all the nighttime glitz and glare at 6 a.m. I had a breakfast at Shoney’s and headed out of town. That was enough for me. Gatlinburg would have been very interesting if I was into craft shops; and, pottery is a weakness of mine. Pigeon Forge is Branson MO or as the locals tell me Branson is Pigeon Forge TN.

I drove up to I-40, hit the bypass 640 around Knoxville to I-75N and then got off at the Norris exit. Opps, this doesn’t look like the area of twenty or so years ago I visited briefly! I did a couple of tours around Norris and then headed for the Norris Dam State Park and got in around 9:30 a.m. I had to back in. Oh no, I have to back in as there wasn’t one pull-through in either the east or west sections. I chose the west section and was that another one of those roller coaster roads getting here- hate to have had a big rig and there was one here. Luckily, there were only two other rigs here at the Park when I was giving my exhibition. Unfortunately, two Park Maintenance guys were (patiently) watching and waiting for me to get situated. They were very sympathetic to my plight - afterwards.

Why am I here at Norris TN - about 15-20 miles north of Knoxville? I use to come visit my maternal grandparents when they lived here. They are not from this area but “Bopar” worked for the US Bureau of Mines and was stationed here back in the late 30’s and 40’s. The houses they lived in are still here as is the school and a couple of other buildings I remember that were here at the time. But it is not the small little community it was back in the 40’s. A 4-laner was put in nearby and that opened up the area. I can still see the other well-maintened older homes but there sure a lot of newer ones. Tuesday I (Picture at right is Grandfathers office)will go explore a bit more plus go to the Museum of Appalachia.

It’s daylight out now and time to go do some visiting.