Join us as we explore America…

 

WELCOME ABOARD!

This is the story of our “Great American Adventure.” It’s a record of our years-long motor home journey across America. It’s my online scrapbook. My collection of trinkets. My recording of nature’s soundtrack. I want to capture here the sights and sounds of our country, the breeze across the water and the smell of salt sea air. I want to hear the noisy bustle of city streets and the peace and quiet in the redwood forest. I want to milk a cow and drive a tractor, ride in a freight train’s locomotive and learn about hobos during the Depression. I’ll play checkers with one of the fellas in front of the General Store, visit the Grand Ole Opry, Woodstock and Radio City Music Hall.  I’ll go to a rodeo and watch the cowboys compete.  I’m going to sit a while with the old man on a bench and listen…really listen, to what he has to say. I’ll meet a  fisherman in New England and chat with him about the day’s catch. And I’m going to help anyone I can, in any way I can, along the way. I want to make a difference. I want to see our country and meet the people who live here.

Read more »

Categories: Misc | Comments Off on Join us as we explore America…

Welcome to the Ozarks…

WELCOME TO THE OZARKS. We’ve arrived in southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountain Country, also referred to as “the Ozarks.” It’s a highland geologic region of the country’s central states of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, extending in Missouri all the way northeast to the suburbs of St. Louis.  Although sometimes referred to as the Ozark Mountains, the region is actually a high and deeply dissected plateau, covering nearly 47,000 square miles.

 

We’re in Missouri’s Ozark Mountain Area. The Ozarks are actually not mountains. Rather, the area is a huge plateau extending in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  

 

The hills in Tennessee, Kentucky and here in the Missouri are heavily wooded, green and beautiful. I love San Diego and it is certainly beautiful, but compared to this the landscape there is like a desert.  

 

Cattle ranch in the Ozark mountain area of Missouri.

 

Read more »

Categories: History, Missouri | Leave a comment

The Solar Eclipse…

How does the moon cut the sun’s hair? Eclipse it.

SOLAR ECLIPSE ON AUGUST 21, 2017. Not since 1979 and not again until 2024 will there be a solar eclipse like this one. What a big deal! I don’t know where you were during the eclipse, but in this part of the country seeing it was supposed to be a real “happening.” We’re staying at Wappapelo Lake in Missouri, close to the “path of totality” in a coveted spot to watch the moon pass between the sun and the Earth, according to the local astronomy folks.  People  from far and wide traveled great distances to get a glimpse of this rare phenomenon. For example, a farmer in a small town in Oregon rented spaces in one of his fields to ten thousand out-of-town folks who camped overnight to witness the eclipse! Everywhere we’ve been for the last month, folks have been talking about it. Safety glasses were given out in libraries and visitors’ centers and folks were definitely “on the road” for this event.  For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocked the sun from any given location along the path was only about two minutes and 40 seconds.  The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse like this was in 1979. Here are the stats for Lake Wappapello, where we watched the eclipse.

Read more »

Categories: History, Missouri | 2 Comments

Have you ever found a “kindness rock?”

KINDNESS ROCKS. Several weeks ago, I began finding small rocks, painted with inspirational quotes, around RV parks and at the beach. They were in plain view, unlike geocaches which are carefully hidden. Have you guys seen these kinds of rocks, just lying around on the ground? “What’s going on with this?” I wondered. So I checked it out and here’s what I learned.

 

Who’d have ever guessed I’d put a post on my blog about Kindness Rocks? Not too many years ago I wouldn’t have been “caught dead” posting such a silly thing, much less thinking about painting a rock on a rainy day. But now, it seems kind of fun and I’m no longer much concerned about what folks think! What about you? 

Read more »

Categories: Missouri | 1 Comment

Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes…

LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES. We’re in Kentucky now, staying for a few days in an area known as Land Between the Lakes. It is an inland peninsula formed when the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers were impounded, creating Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley–one of the world’s largest man-made bodies of water. The Army Corps of Engineers began construction of this huge recreational area in 1959, and in 1963 President John F. Kennedy created Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, a 170,000-acre national recreation space for all to enjoy. LBL was formed to demonstrate how an area with limited timber, agricultural, and industrial resources could be converted into a recreation asset that would stimulate economic growth in the region. Land Between the Lakes is the country’s only such national demonstration area. The park within this vast area where we’re staying is called Hurricane Creek.

Read more »

Categories: Animals, History, Kentucky | 8 Comments

Defeated Creek Campground…

WE’VE BEEN LUCKY. Since departing Florida last month, we’ve been very lucky selecting wonderful parks where we can stay along our cross-country trek. It’s not always easy to determine in advance how a place really looks…websites employ very crafty photographers to make the most of what a park has to offer. But often when we arrive we can barely recognize the place compared to what we saw online. Not so, we’ve learned, at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (CoE) parks and recreation areas. In our experience a CoE park is a sure bet. And our spot at Defeated Creek is no exception. In fact it may be the nicest spot we’ve stayed, ever! We’ve extended a planned four-day stop to ten days.

A perfect spot.

Read more »

Categories: History, Tennessee | 6 Comments

My wife can repair anything!

Access to the refrigerator components is from the outside. This is where Florence worked her magic and got our fridge up and running again. When I look at a mass of wires like that, all I can think of is calling for help!

IF IT’S BROKEN, SHE CAN REPAIR IT. I’m convinced that my wife can repair anything, so it’s time for me to write this post and pat her high! The topic is a little  embarrassing for me, but here we go. If it breaks, Florence can fix it. I’ve known she was handy for years, but since embarking on our motorhome adventure her skills have become far more obvious and far more necessary. Think about it. What if your brick and mortar house could be driven down the road…the plumbing, electrical systems, appliances, computers, and televisions all would take a real beating every time there was a pothole in the road! Right? Well, that’s exactly what happens even with the highest quality motorhomes. Things just stop working once in a while after taking such a beating. And it’s the reason that no matter how far off the beaten track we wander, there always seems to be a mobile RV repairman in the area. I’m convinced these guys make a fortune! I’ve often threatened Florence with “putting her to work.” If I purchased one of those inexpensive magnet signs advertising RV repair service and slapped it on the side of our Jeep, she’d be able to drive around these RV parks trolling for business. And she’d make a fortune just like the rest of those guys!

Read more »

Categories: Misc | Leave a comment

The Beauty of Cades Cove…

 

No, we didn’t see a bear. But we might have, and I knew this photo would get your attention.

OUR LAST DAY AT THE PARK. Today was our last day in Gatlinburg so we had to choose between many places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to visit. We chose Cades Cove, on the advice of several locals whom we met at breakfast the other day. There are so many things to see and do in this area we wish our schedule allowed for a longer stay. A two or three month summer vacation would be about right to see all that’s in the Park and also in the town of Gatlinburg. If you’re going to come here, don’t make the same mistake we made and cut your visit short. Figure out how much time you’d like to spend and then double it! Oh my gosh, I wanted so much to stay here longer but in order for us to reach Oregon and find a new home in a timely fashion, we have to move on. When I tried to push Florence for a longer stay here she reminded me of this. And, even if I’d pushed, my authority is pretty much limited to having her pass the chips and guacamole! What can I say?

 

Visiting this park has been one of the highlights of our Great American Adventure.

Read more »

Categories: History, National Parks, North Carolina, Scenic Byways, Tennessee | 4 Comments

The Mountains are Calling…

GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE. You’re going to like it here! This small mountain town is home to less than 4,000 folks but it attracts more than 11 million visitors a year and can grow to a population of 40,000 on any given night. It’s nestled at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in America. The locals claim that Gatlinburg is where Sunday drives were invented. There are three entrances to the Park from Gatlinburg and each one takes you through a different section of the 800 square miles of unspoiled Appalachia. The weather has been picture postcard perfect for our visit: blue skies and white fluffy clouds with high temperatures in the upper 70’s. And, for the first time in over a year, low humidity! It’s even bit a little chilly in the evening. We’re loving it!

 

The downtown parkway in Gatlinburg has hundreds of shops, restaurants, boutiques, hotels, lodges, dinner theaters and outfitters. A diner’s paradise and a shopper’s paradise. 

Read more »

Categories: Animals, History, Jeep, National Parks, North Carolina, Tennessee | Leave a comment

Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground…

 

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE. Here we are in Tennessee at the Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground in Chattanooga. The city is located in the southeastern part of the state, along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is one of the top destinations in the South. It’s trolley-like Incline Railway scales steep Lookout Mountain before reaching Ruby Falls and Rock City, just across the border from the state of Georgia. From the observation point, it’s possible to see more than 100 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains and it marks a point in the US where 7 states meet along their borders: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. We’re now on the last leg of our years-long motor-home adventure across America. By November we’ll reach Oregon, which will become home for us. But we’ve got lots to see and do before then, right now in Chattanooga and then as we make our way to the West coast. So here’s a bit about Chattanooga. 

SUPER-FAST INTERNET. But first, here’s an interesting fact: Chattanooga may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to cutting-edge technology. But thanks to its ultra-high-speed Internet, the city has established itself as a center for innovation – and an encouraging example for those frustrated with slow speeds and high costs from private broadband providers. The city rolled out a fiber-optic network a few years ago that now offers speeds of up to 1000 Megabits per second for just $70 per month. This is light-years ahead of average U.S. connection speed, which is typically about 10 megabits per second. A city-owned agency, the Electric Power Board, runs its own network, offering higher-speed service than any of its private-sector competitors can manage. We became aware of the super-fast internet shortly after we pulled into our campsite. Wow! It’s even faster than the T-3 connection I had in my office when I was practicing law in San Diego, and at 45 megabits per second that was about as fast as one could get in those days.

Read more »

Categories: History, Railroad, Tennessee | 2 Comments

An eye-opener for me…

Martin Luther King, Jr.

VISITING MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA. Visiting downtown Montgomery was an eye-opener for me! The blacks and the whites don’t sit around singing Kumbaya together. All is not well, despite all the progress made during the Civil Rights era of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I’ll tell you a little about the progress made during the Civil Rights era, but I’ll also show you what I saw today. I guess I’m naive. I thought things would be different.

CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. African Americans in Montgomery nurtured the modern civil rights movement. In the post-World War II era, returning African-American veterans were among those who became active in pushing to gain their civil rights in the South. They wanted to be allowed to vote and participate in politics, to freely use public places and to end segregation. They comprised most of the customers on the city buses, but were forced to give up seats and even stand in order to make room for whites. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr., then the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church led the boycott. Since fully 3/4  of those who rode the bus were black, it didn’t take long for Dr.King’s point to be made. By June of 1956, the US District Court ruled that Montgomery’s bus racial segregation was unconstitutional. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling in November, the city desegregated the bus system and the boycott ended.

Read more »

Categories: Alabama, History | 2 Comments

Mrs. B’s Home Cooking…

Mrs. B. cooks the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted, hands down!

THE REAL DEAL. We’ve had some pretty good meals since we left San Diego more than four years ago. But for the real-deal Southern home-cooked fare, our lunch today at Mrs. B’s was far and away the best. We happened on it by chance. Driving to Starbucks we decided we were hungry and Florence found four our five places on our GPS. They all sounded good, but for some reason I picked Mrs. B’s. I’m so glad I did. When we arrived, I had second thoughts for a moment. The place was located in a pretty run-down residential neighborhood and for some reason I felt a little nervous. After all, we are now in the truly deep South and far from any tourist attractions. We’ve unintentionally been around some real white trash and some blacks that looked as if they’d skin you alive for a twenty dollar bill! We’ve had a few “scares” as I’ll write about soon, but we decided to march right in to this little restaurant like we owned the place. Wow! The diners were mixed, friendly and seated at tables “family style.” I could judge in an instant that the food prepared here was going to be special and the owner and her helpers worked hard to make it so.

Read more »

Categories: Alabama, Armed Forces, Eateries | Leave a comment

Lowndesboro, Alabama…

AN HISTORIC TOWN NEAR GUNTER HILL. Over the years, I’ve shown you guys some small towns in lots of different “off the beaten path” parts of the country. They were all small, but Lowndesboro, Alabama is really tiny. However, despite its population of only about 140 souls, it’s packed with charm, a colorful history and lots of examples of Southern architecture dating from the 1800’s. Initially incorporated in 1856 by an act of the state legislature, Lowndesboro lapsed and was not reincorporated until 1962. It is one of only two towns in the county with a white majority of residents. We heard about this place last evening from some locals we met and decided this morning to go take a look. Here we go.

This is the road from Gunter Hill to Lownsburo. It’s typical of country roads in the deep South. It’s not uncommon to be slowed by a tractor driving down the road or animals wandering from one place to another. And there are alligators in the ponds and bogs on either side of this and many back-country roads. When we first arrived in the South, this terrified me. But now that we’ve spent so much time here it just seems like an ordinary situation! Just don’t swim without knowing it’s safe. 

Marengo House. Circa 1847. Now used as a Town Hall.

The grounds surrounding Morengo are meticulously maintained. There’s nowhere here to spend one’s tourist dollars so the townsfolk are motivated by a desire to memorialize the history, I suppose, rather to make a buck. Impressive. 

Read more »

Categories: Alabama, Alligators, History | 3 Comments

Gunter Hill Campground…

WHAT A FIND! Our first stop in Alabama is Gunter Hill Campground located near Montgomery. What a find! We have a huge concrete pad, a full hookup with 50 amp electric service and a beautiful forest-like setting where we are surrounded by lakes and rivers. All sites have large well maintained picnic tables, a fire pit, and an outdoor grill. Many of the spaces are more than 50 yards apart and they are staggered for optimal view and privacy. All the roads are paved and it’s as easy as catching fish at a fish farm to navigate around in a big-rig motorhome. And listen to this. With my national pass we’re paying only $13 per night., and this includes electric. Although we’re only staying a little longer than a week, one can take advantage of all this and stay here for a full month before being required to depart. This is the best deal we’ve found in the all the time we’ve been traveling, which at this point is more than four years! Sometimes we’ve  stayed in really high-end RV parks and willingly paid as much as $110 per night. But at that rate it’s too expensive for an every day routine. So we feel really smug about the spot where we are right now.

A delightful spot near our site at Gunter Hill RV Park.

Read more »

Categories: Alabama | 6 Comments

Going home…

IT’S TIME TO GO HOME. We’ve been traveling and living in our motorcoach about four years now, and it’s time to go home. We’ve seen this great country from coast to coast. We’ve been to the beach at the Pacific, the Atlantic and on the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve stayed at beaches, in the mountains, along streams near waterfalls and in desert areas. We’ve gone boating in beautiful lakes and experienced the Fall colors in New England. We’ve met some remarkable folks and many have become friends. We’ve survived some real challenges and had some great celebrations, but it’s time to go home.

BUT THERE’S A CATCH. Where’s home? When we left San Diego four years ago, we sold our home in Deerhorn Valley. For years now, our motorhome has been home. And now we’re ready once again for a more traditional one, as in “house.” As we’ve explored this country we’ve given lots of thought to where we’d ultimately like to retire. There are so many wonderful states and cities, it’s hard to pick. Beach or mountains? Big city or little town? Temperature? Weather? We’re always hard pressed to answer the inevitable question we’re asked, “What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?” But, we’ve pretty much made up our minds. Oregon will become our new home.

Read more »

Categories: Alabama, Oregon | 8 Comments

Goodbye to Pensacola…

IT’S TIME. It’s time for us to move along! We’ve been in Florida, mostly Pensacola, for almost 18 months…far longer than we had planned. I’ve explained to you guys in earlier posts the reasons for our lengthy stay, and I can’t say we ever wanted to spend so much of our Great American Adventure here. But under the circumstances, we couldn’t have found a better place for a lengthy stay. We’ve seen lots of interesting sights, enjoyed the beautiful white sands and sparkling water of the Emerald Coast and met some of the finest people we’ve ever known.

Pensacola Beach at daybreak.

There are miles of beautiful beaches to explore and it’s easy to find one all to yourselves.

Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Mobile Bay on a cloudy day.

WE’VE SEEN LOTS OF SIGHTS. We’ve wandered through the world famous Naval Air Museum more than once and been impressed on each visit with the wealth of information and wonderful interactive exhibits. The young Marines who were our docents had stories to tell and made us proud to be Americans. The little beach town of Destin with its fishing boats and waterfront restaurants was a great day trip as was the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We visited a parrot sanctuary, saw more seafood on display at a fish market than anywhere else in the world, won a lot of money at the Wind Creek Casino in Atmore, took some cooking classes, saw the Blue Angels streak across the sky on several occasions, had brunch with CeeLo Green, and enjoyed lots of local restaurants “off the beaten path.”

Colorful parrots in Pensacola.

National Naval Air Museum.

Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Pensacola is home to the Navy’s Blue Angels and we enjoyed seeing them many times during our stay.

These Hornet Jets fly at speeds up to 500 miles per hour, so it takes a pretty experienced photographer to get nice clear photos. But even though these aren’t as I’d like them, I’m posting so you can get an idea of how impressive the show is.

A TURKEY SHOOT? HURRICANES? HUH? I never dreamed I’d participate in a turkey shoot, eat real legitimate Southern barbeque, or be glued to the weather channel for hours on end as several hurricanes and tornadoes passed close-by. And last but not least, Pensacola is where we welcomed our little puppy Molly to the family when we picked her up at the airport after she made her trip to us from the breeder in Oklahoma. She’s been a delight ever since day one and, looking back, we’re hard-pressed to remember what we did with ourselves all day before she arrived!

This is Molly on the day we picked her up at the airport. She weighed only two pounds when we got her.

Florence takes aim with a shotgun at the turkey shoot.

Joe Patti’s Seafood Market has every imaginable kind of fish and shellfish. It’s by far the largest display of fresh fish I’ve ever seen under one roof. If you can’t find it here, it doesn’t live in the ocean. 

PENSACOLA RV PARK. We met lots of southern folks, up close and personal, and came to appreciate their respectful manners and gracious hospitality. The Williams family, who hosted our lengthy stay at Pensacola RV Park, is truly the epitome of all that’s good about the South. We will always feel blessed that we met and were able to get to know them. Hopefully our paths will cross again someday.

If you’re ever in the area, call this park for reservations. The park itself and the people who own and operate it are top notch! Thanks, you guys, for a wonderful stay and lots of memories!

 

The spaces are large and well maintained at Pensacola RV Park.

 

WE’LL LEAVE IN A COUPLE DAYS. Stay tuned, as we’ll announce our travel plans soon. We hope you’ll continue to join us on the next leg of our Great American Adventure.

I’ll continue my story next time.

Categories: Florida, History | 8 Comments

Here comes Cindy!

10 PM, JUNE 20, 2017

FIRST AN UPDATE: For those of you who follow my blog, I’m happy to report that my surgery is complete as is the biopsy. No malignancy! My doctor wants to monitor me for a couple more weeks and then we’ll be on the road again. Thank goodness! We’ll head to Georgia, then to South Carolina to visit my friend Jackie in Greenville. After that stop we will explore North Carolina, with a stop to spend some time with our dear friend Julie who lives in Charlotte. We’ll also take another look at Tennessee, Arkansas and Virginia. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

HURRICANE SEASON HAS ARRIVED.  The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1st and will last until the end of November. And the season is off to a quick start with tropical storm Cindy now threatening the Gulf coast. A tornado watch has just been issued for Pensacola and the National Weather Service is warning of imminent torrential rain, flash flooding, rip currents, high surf advisory and beach closures. Cindy will likely become a hurricane shortly. Great! Despite having been in the path of some very threatening weather in the past and being spared a direct hit, we’re concerned. These kinds of weather events are still pretty new to us and we’ll be glad when they’re just a distant memory.

This is the way things look right now! Pensacola is in the center of the screen. 

HERE COMES CINDY. At this moment, tropical storm Cindy is a huge and very messy weather system approaching the Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle, where we’re staying. Short of leaving the area, we’ve taken all the precautions we can at the moment. The awnings are retracted, the patio umbrella is secured as is the American flag, and the satellite dish has been closed down to present as little wind resistance as possible. We’ve emptied our tanks and taken on a supply of fresh water. Now we wait, but it looks like this storm is going to be a bad mamba jamba which will threaten us for at least the next five days. And we may have to evacuate sooner! Stay tuned.

UPDATE: JUNE 21, 2017: Tornado watches and warnings all day long. Severe flooding on roadways. Heavy rain, but we are safe. Storm continues.

UPDATE: JUNE 22, 2017: The rain is so heavy that it sounds like we’re inside a snare drum! Tornado watch in effect today until 3 PM, Central Time. Wind is picking up speed.

JUNE 24, 2017: The storm has passed, skies are sunny and but for the humidity all is well.

I’ll continue my story next time.

Categories: Florida | Leave a comment

Christ on a bicycle!

IT’S HARD TO WRITE A TRAVEL BLOG. Christ on a bicycle! When you’re not traveling, it’s darn-near impossible to write a travel blog. That’s been my frustration for more than a year while we remained in Pensacola on my doctors’ orders after the “brush with death” I had in November of 2015. Even though I’ll be forever grateful for the miraculous recovery I enjoyed and all your prayers and support, our Great American Adventure has not for quite a while been what we’d anticipated. And now, of all places, we’re  back in Pensacola!

Read more »

Categories: Brush With Death, Florida, People | 10 Comments