Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another week - Week 6

You can learn a lot from books, maps, and statistics, but the road is a better teacher.

That is such a true statement. My friend Carol Rayburn loaned me her Natchez Trace Parkway book. As I read through it before reaching the parkway, my mind created a picture of what it would be like. Then as I drove the parkway I realized how incomplete my book-driven vision had been. Words, and even the pictures in the book, fell short of the actual experience. In fact, I don’t believe any book could do this route justice – you just have to explore it in person.

My last day on the Natchez Trace Parkway
With less rain in the forecast, I started my last day on the trace. It was less than 100 miles to Nashville and I was beginning to be bored with the Trace. Today’s route took me northeast into the corner of Alabama and then on into Tennessee.

Colbert’s Ferry
Crossing the Tennessee River was a traveler’s problem in the early 1800s and an enterprising man built Colbert’s Stand to offer warm meals and shelter and started a ferry for crossing the river. At that time it was a wide and fast flowing river. Today the river, though still very wide, has a calmness created by TVA dams and locks built in the 1820s and 1930s. I took this picture right before driving over the bridge.

Bored? On The Trace
Just as I was starting to feel bored with the Parkway, I rounded a bend in the road to find large meadows on both sides – all aglow with golden flowers. An unexpected splash of joy!

Run! Squirrels
I just about had some fresh-killed squirrel meat for dinner! Two of those frisky guys were tussling as I drove in their direction. Evidently knowing they were in peril, they split – one to each side of the highway. Then one squirrel decided to join his friend in the opposite direction and almost didn’t make it as I drove by. I do enjoy watching the squirrels – they are great entertainment at campgrounds.

Time to leave the Trace and find an RV Park in the Nashville area. Found a pull-out and put the park’s address in my Garmin.

Frustration with my GPS
I sure didn’t want to have a tour of the suburbs of Nashville and definitely didn’t want to drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic down Broadway (probably the busiest street in town on a late Saturday afternoon). To calm my frustration I contemplated what the “good” was in this unexpected, meandering drive. In my conversation with myself I said: “this semi-rural area with horse ranches sure is pretty”, and “look at all those interesting stores – and people – on Broadway!” My unplanned drive also took me past Vanderbilt University and Hospital.

Didn’t want to, but that’s where my Garmin sent me! ‘Turn here; turn here,’ I was instructed, over and over again! As I passed some large apartment complexes I joked with myself that perhaps I should just rent an apartment rather than continuing on! I’m hoping the Garmin ‘problem’ can be fixed by changing some settings on it.

After this round-about route, I did end up at Two Rivers RV Park just blocks from Opry Land and Opry Mills (mall), checked in, parked and relaxed. I’m just not a “tourist” person and had no desire to mix with the mobs of tourists. I did walk the mall on Sunday morning. The stores were all closed but I enjoyed looking in store windows and this is where I decided my choice of footwear (sneakers) is seriously not in style. (see photo below) Starbucks and Subway were open) so I had a cup of coffee and choked down about a third of one of Subway’s less-than-tasty breakfast offerings. I decided to get back on the road and continue east.

Next Stop – surprise entertainment at Cumberland Mountain State Park near Crossville, TN.
I much prefer parks where the campsites aren’t right next to each other – and this park was super. Finally, breathing space, good weather, for two nights!  As I was relaxing outside, I felt something on my leg – looked down and it was strange looking. Before he could crawl off, I took a picture. (double-click for a larger photo)

On my walk around the park, I enjoyed some bird-watching time at the Byrd River and the picturesque bridge over it.

And surprise entertainment! From my campsite I could hear some good music; some country/western and some bluegrass. I followed my ear and discovered an informal jam session. Of course, I walked into the campsite, met some of them and found out this music group – from all over the area – camps together several times and year. In all there were probably a dozen musicians, their spouses and friends.
One of the friends – a man named Ralph – told me about the group and gave me a CD of their music. At their evening jam, I again joined in to enjoy the music. Next thing I knew, Ralph was practically dragging me into the musician group so I could “sing” with them! “It’s easy – just two words” he explained as I protested. Well, I did sing with them – the words are ‘alfalfa hay’ sung numerous times to the tune of "How Dry I Am".

Ripplin’ Water
With the laundry bag full, my next stop was Ripplin’ Water RV Resort near Knoxville. The ‘entertainment’ at this park was a serious thunderstorm. Heavy rains at time, some hail, and lots of lightning and thunder. Realizing the campsites were in a low area and the Pigeon River was on the other side of a earthen berm, I mentally rehearsed my steps for possible evacuation. Glad when the storm passed!

How many beans do I weigh?
A stop at the Bush’s Beans facility was next – it is a huge processing plant in the tiny community of Chestnut Hill, Tenn. My RV friend Carol Landau told me it was a “must see” stop and I’m so glad I did. The visitor portion of the plant consisted of a store, a café, along with an entertaining video giving the facilities history and showing the process. Numerous displays – some hands-on – provided more information. There were a couple cute videos about the dog Duke, who has many schemes to “sell” the family’s secret recipe. My favorite activity was stepping on a scale to see how many ‘beans I weigh’. See photo below:

And speaking of recipes, the bean company hands out recipe cards – the one that intrigues me is for Bush’s Pinto Bean Pie.
RECIPE and directions
1 unbaked pie crust
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup melted margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup Bush’s Pinto Beans, heated and lightly mashed
½ cup finely chopped pecans
2 eggs, well beaten
Combine all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Center of pie will be slightly unset. Can be frozen

Warriors’ Path State Park
This is another state park to enjoy – tall, green trees, a lake practically hidden nearby – a good place to spend two days. Tomorrow – Friday, May 24, I’ll drive to Abingdon, Virginia to visit Mary Anne Multer, a gal I met when she was a campground host at Anza Borrego State Park (southern Calif).

I sure haven’t seen much sun this week – and tonight’s forecast is for more thunderstorms. I like the trees, but do miss seeing sunrises and sunsets!

Here you can see my route so far:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Week 5 done - many more to come!

There are two ways to travel. One is based on the destination in a specific time frame and what is along the way is considered an annoying hindrance. My way, especially on this trip, is to enjoy the entire ride and all the places it takes me.

The South – seems like a foreign “country”
I am enjoying each day and the people I meet, even if they are sometimes difficult to understand. They probably think I’M the one from a foreign country.

Short drive in Louisiana
I spent three nights at Lake Bruin State Park in Louisiana, parked just a few feet from the swampy lake. Jeremiah Junior was parked among tall trees – cypress, sweet gum and oak. It was a playground for squirrels and a perfect place for birds to perfect their songs

Squirrel info of interest
Intrigued by these fluffy tailed creatures especially the variety of ways a squirrel moves its tail, I went to the Internet to learn more. This body part can be nearly as big as the critter it's attached to. But it’s not there just for decoration. The squirrel uses its tail to keep itself steady as it leaps across treetops or does a high-wire act on telephone lines. And it uses his tail to communicate with other squirrels. When a squirrel is alarmed, it flicks its tail; when it's feeling aggressive, it fluffs it up. During its breeding season, a squirrel will wave and shiver its tail while approaching the opposite sex.

From Lake Bruin to Natchez
The highway from Lake Bruin to Natchez was sparsely traveled, giving me time to ponder life and to look at the farm fields – mostly corn, cotton and soybeans – as I drove past. Along the way I stopped at the Louisiana State Cotton Museum; took pictures, including an old tractor and a sharecropper’s cabin. I also saw some early cotton gins in one of the outbuildings.

Mississippi, the sixth state on this trip
The bridge spanning the mighty Mississippi River was high and long. (Question: when you were in elementary school do you remember learning how to spell Mississippi – M, I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, I, hump-back, hump-back, I?)

Natchez, Mississippi
Settled in 1710, two years before New Orleans was settled, Natchez’ claim to fame is that it is the oldest “civilized” town on the Mississippi River. I’m in this state specifically to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez to Nashville, Tenn.

The Natchez Trace Parkway – 444 miles through three states and 10,000 years of history
At first, the trace was probably a series of hunters’ paths that slowly came to form a trail. By 1785, Ohio River Valley farmers searching for markets had begun floating their crops and products down the rivers to Natchez. They sold their products and also their flatboats for lumber, so returning home meant either riding or walking. Growing numbers of travelers tramped the crude trail into a clearly marked path. By 1810, it was an important wilderness road.

As the road was being improved, many inns (called ‘stands’) were built to provide shelter and food. Difficulties of the trail included thieves, floods, swamps, disease-carrying insects and sometimes unfriendly Indians. The trace was used until the steamboat era made the return north easier.

The Trace Today
The National Park Service has completed a really nice, two-lane road over many parts of the original Trace. No commercial traffic. The black-topped surface makes for a smooth ride – maximum 50 mph – with no stop signs or traffic signals. Cross traffic along the way is access controlled. All traffic entering or leaving the parkway does so by yielding. A delightful drive.

In most areas the tall trees and generous mowed-grass road shoulders form a wide corridor for the road. There are more than 100 marked features on the parkway and pull-outs – historic areas, buildings, Indian mounds, side walking trails, overlooks, primitive camping areas, etc. I stopped at many – but not all – of those areas.

First campground stop on the Trace
My first campground stop along the Trace was Natchez Trace State Park. Senior camping fee is $13 a night for water and electricity. Being here three days gave me plenty of relaxing time. And it is here I met some super new friends, Gary and Cheryl from Pembroke, Maine. We had lovely visits as we shared happy hour each evening. And it is here that a tick managed to find my leg! It was a very small one. Below you'll find me relaxing at my campsite.

A memorable stop was at Mt. Locust Stand.
This is the only remaining stand (inn) from the beginning of the 19th century was about a day’s walk from Natchez. This restored cabin is one of the oldest buildings in the state. It is the only remaining example of a frontier home of the 1820s, which was he peak era of he Trace’s foot and horse travel.. 

My fourth night on the Trace was in the free, primitive (no hookups) Jeff Busby Campground. It is named after the former congressman who shepherded a measure through Congress in the mid-1930s. “to locate the Natchez Trace as near as practical to its original route and to determine the cost of construction of an appropriate National Parkway.’

A whole lot of mowing going on
Another stop was at Pharr Mounds – ancient burial grounds for Indians. Look carefully and you’ll see two lawnmowers at work. With 900 acres, this must be a full time job! (You can double-click a photo temporarily enlarge it)

Along the way, I drove through the area where a hurricane blew down trees in April 2011. It was a sad sight and a reminder of just how powerful these storms are. For about 12 miles, I could see devastation on both sides of the Trace. Those huge, healthy trees are now simply tall trunks with new leaves and small branches coming on. It will be a long time before they again reach their glorious height

Still more Trace to go
I’m at Milepost 304, so there is plenty of this historic road to travel. I’m camped at Tishomingo State Park. Knowing that rain was forecast for a few days, I decided this was a good place to hunker down. I was met by a member of the campsite greeting committee.

And on one of my walks, I came to this outdoor church location here in the park.
I fell asleep last night to the “crooning” of an American Bullfrog. Its deep voice that can be heard up to a quarter mile lulled and relaxed me. We’ve had lots of rain today – it is comforting to know that I have a water-tight motor home! Weather permitting, tomorrow I’ll continue up the Trace to Alabama and then Tennessee.

I am so blessed to be on this trip. Jeremiah Junior is doing super. Since I started on April 7, I’ve driven 2,812 miles.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Another super week!

I love birthdays! This was #75 for me!
In fact, when I turned 65, I declared that I would now celebrate the entire month of May! I received many birthday email messages and a few cards found me.

Here is the birthday poem my sister Elaine sent

For Carol’s birthday on May 3, 2013

Where, oh where, can Carol Anderson be?
Oh where, oh where can she be?
Consult her blog, look at her map,
And her location -- nearly -- you’ll see.

Driving her portable, temporary dwelling she is free
Traveling desert, hills, mountains on the way to the sea 
Friends here and there across the USA she’ll be stopping to see
And connect via Internet and smartphone with you and me.

Why, oh why, is Carol Anderson going?
Because there’s more places out there to see 
While she’s healthy and able she wants to be
Appreciating God’s blessings from sea to sea.  

By Elaine ©2013

Elaine &  Don
See my latest writing in my blog:

Just who is Bucky?
For my new friends who don’t know Bucky, here he is!

This cute guy is a ventriloquist “doll” that I bought at an antique mall in Lancaster, Ohio, several years ago. When I saw him and turned to walk away, I’m sure I heard him say, “Please take me with you; it’s boring here!” Bucky is my front seat companion and he is never bored! Kids and adults like him; he’s a real conversation starte

Little Ducky Duddle…Went Swimming in a Puddle
This was my theme song as I drove to Cane Creek State Park in Arkansas. And it continued as my theme most of the time I was here. It was mostly an occasional gentle rain. At times when the rain stopped, it was hard to tell because the tall, tall leafy trees continued to drip. We had front row parking overlooking the lake. I stayed here two days.

 Exploring the park’s Delta View Trail
The first half of the 3+ mile up-and-down loop was in the Gulf Coastal Plain forest. I heard many more birds than I saw – leaves were blocking the view – also saw the tail end of four while-tailed deer. The predominant trees here are oak, hickory and pine.

Squirrels’ playground, and a dog, too
Site #18 where I’m parked has squirrels galore! Up and down the trees – and they are fast – and scurrying here and there. The other “local” four footed creature is the “camp dog”. Rangers say it was left or dropped off a few years ago and it has made the park its summer home. The rangers have tried to trap it and campers have volunteered to take it, but the dog just doesn’t want to associate with humans. However, he is happy to accept food handouts that are left on the ground. When winter arrives, the dog heads for town. Guess he is somewhat of a “snowbird”.

Campers’ courtesy boat dock
I waked to the boat dock just before dusk and found a large stand of blooming dogwood! This park, like many lake parks, is where locals spend their weekends camping. Since the regular dock is not real near, this dock makes it convenient for boater/campers.

 Great campground neighbors
There are less than 10 campers here (Wednesday and Thursday). One camper I met brought over their dinner leftovers! Pork chops smothered with Vidalia onions, wild rice pilaf, fresh cooked green beans, salad with home-grown spinach and fresh strawberries and home-made dressing, and a delicious dessert. Felt like I had hit the jackpot. The portions were huge and I had plenty enough for another day.

Good Grief! Winter came back!
A super short driving day – Cane Creek is less than 20 miles to my next stop – visiting Brenda and Ralph Branch in Cornerville, Arkansas. A cold front is headed our way; just when I had hoped summer would arrive so I appreciated the offer to stay in their guest room

Brenda is what I call a “shirt-tail” relative. She was married to my cousin until he passed away – would that be a ‘cousin-in-law’? Brenda returned to Cornerville where she has lived nearly all her life. She is now married to Ralph Branch who could pass for an identical twin of my former dance partner Pete Durst – same eyes, face, stature, hair – and an all-around super man.

Cornerville is a tiny place. The only store is Newton Store that her family has been running for years. Brenda’s Mom ran it and now Brenda does. It is the only obvious business in Cornerville. The store has a small selection of groceries, cigarettes, snuff, sodas, and unleaded gas. No alcohol because this is a “dry county”. People buy on “credit” and pay off the balance as they can.

I met plenty of Brenda and Ralph’s relatives. The big event while I was here was the newborn calf that arrived. Mom cow ‘dropped’ the calf prematurely in a water puddle and walked away. They are now bottle feeding it because Mom cow doesn’t seem to be interested.

And I learned more about Arkansas cuisine. For instance, people add butter and granulated sugar to their steamed white rice. I also got to enjoy a mostly-fried dinner at a nearby restaurant. I chose the buffet in order to sample several different things. When my plate was full, the only thing not the color of brown it was my green salad! All the rest had been rolled in cornmeal and fried. Here’s what I had – and all fried – okra, mushrooms, corn, dill pickle, French fries, catfish, frog legs, shrimp and hush puppies!

Jeremiah Junior was due for service
Brenda recommended and set up an appointment for me – at the wood chipping plant. Here huge branchless trees are fed into chipping equipment; the resulting chips (mostly pine) go to one of the huge paper-making facilities.

 Chicot Lake State Park
When I left Cornerville, my next stop was Chicot (pronounced chee-co) Lake State Park along the Mississippi (southerners pronounce it Mess-ipie). This lake is Arkansas’ largest one and it is an “oxbow” lake (sort of C-shaped) that once was the main channel of the river.

Jeremiah Junior is one of few RVs here so it feels like my private grassy lawn in a grove of tall, wild pecan and oak trees. The lake is ringed with cypress trees standing literally “up to their knees” in water.

Local fish include bream, crappie, bass and catfish. I’ve seen lots of squirrels and a variety of birds. Farmlands are on both sides of the river; and next to the park is a field just planted with soybeans. I wandered down to the dock.

Tomorrow we move into Louisiana and stay three days at Lake Bruin State Park to sit out the rain that is headed this way. The park is also along the Mississippi River. From there, I’ll drive the short distance to Natchez, MS, and spend some time touring the city before starting on the 444-mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway.

Here is your Food for Thought
When facing a difficult task, act as though it is impossible to fail. If you’re going after Moby Dick, take along the tartar sauce.  This is from Father’s Instructions for Life, H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Third week - three states

Friend Maria and San Antonio
I was eager to see Maria and find out how she has settled into her retirement apartment. You’ll recall that I made a trip to San Antonio in January to help her get packed up to move from her large 3-bedroom home into a one-bedroom retirement apartment.

She has settled in and made good use of her small apartment, making it into a nice place to be. However, she still had a lot of stuff in her home that needed to be taken care of. She and I spent four days going through all the stuff, sorting things that she declared she “had to have” from the things she was willing to part with. Again, we had fun and lots of laughs.

I parked Jeremiah Junior in the apartment complex parking lot and stayed there at night. Each day I fixed breakfast before meeting Maria to work on the sorting project. She treated me to delicious lunches and dinners in the dining room. I met many of the nice people living there.

Heavy traffic and road construction
That sums up my drive on Hwy 35, from San Antonio to Keene, TX. Traffic was very heavy; there were miles of road construction and along the way I crept. Also the highway went right by West, Texas, where the fertilizer plant had exploded. On this stretch of road there were many emergency and police-type vehicles.

While it could be frustrating, I used the slow drive to enjoy and “mentally” pick bouquets of wildflowers growing alongside the road. The Texas state flower – Bluebonnet – and small yellow sunflowers look lovely together. I “added” light and dark pink flowers and also found some white ones.

Because of the traffic, I chose not to take any side trips from the highway and totally missed my hoped-for stop in Elm Mott to visit friends of my friend Carol Landau.

Keene, Texas
I spent one night at RV Ranch Park. A real nice place and I give the laundry/restroom area a high score. The building had plenty of washers and dryers in the middle portion and on the side walls there were seven complete – and very clean – bathrooms for total privacy. I was able to take care of laundry and showering at the same time.

Euless, Texas, was my next stop
My New Mexico friend Viola moved to a lovely home in Euless a few years ago. This community is between Fort Worth and Dallas. I stayed with her two nights.

We decided to tour the historic town of Grapevine and our timing was perfect! We arrived just before noon and in time to see one of the city’s unique attractions:  the “shoot out” by two would-be train robbers high atop the glockenspiel tower. Larger-than-life mechanical figures – Nat Barrett and Willy Majors – have a confrontation about robbing the incoming train.

The town features numerous life-size bronze statues. In front to the historic Wallis Hotel we found the “sidewalk judge”. Here’s where I snapped Viola’s photo. We also got some fresh produce – tomatoes and cantaloupe – at the Farmers Market.
The Lazy L RV Park, Sherman, Texas
This was a good one-night stop before driving into southeastern Oklahoma. I had more cantaloupe that I could eat in a couple of days and set out to give half of it to the first person I saw in the RV park. That person was a nice couple and they were delighted to have the fresh fruit --- providing I would accept a large bag of shelled pecans from their orchard! Whoo-eee!

The gas at the Sherman Walmart, using a Walmart gift card, was the cheapest gas so far - $3.01 per gallon. That’s 98 cents more than the most expensive gas so far.

Hugo Lake Corps of Engineers Park, Oklahoma
Arriving at a COE park on Sunday or Monday almost guarantees available campsites once the weekend fishers and boaters go home. With the lake to the rear and trees beside, Jeremiah Junior had a quiet, private place.

The birds provided continual songs and calls. I saw my first scissor-tail flycatcher – no mistaking a bird whose tail seems to be at least four times the length of the body. There were mystery birds that were audible from dusk to past 9 p.m. each night and they started in again before dawn.

Back into Texas; on my way to Arkansas
I left the serenity of Hugo Lake and soon was back in traffic – in Texarkana (city is in both Texas and Arkansas). And I was looking for the RV park that I had arranged for tonight. Isaiah, my Garmin, did his best – but alas no luck, even after two phone calls and close to an hour searching. I was actually glad that I could not find it because it was not the best of neighborhoods! I found Hwy 82 and continued east.

Besides an RV park, I was looking for a place to get propane. Locating Tucker’s RV Park in El Dorado, Ark, in a directory, I made a beeline for it. I had already exceeded my 200 miles for the day. Long the way I found a propane dealer!

FYI – North of the Dixon Line, the town is pronounced “El Dorādo” with a long A sound. South it is called El Dorado” with a short A. And for another “language” lesson, in Arkansas people catch “feesh” and “catfeesh” – Arkansas style – is delicious.

Tucker’s was an OK place for overnight – not wonderful, but at least hookups. And I was pooped!

Today, May 1, I drove the mostly deserted state highways to Cane Creek State Park! I’m looking forward to two days here. Tomorrow I’ll explore the park and tell you about it when I do my next posting.

"Life is like a hot bath;
The longer you stay in, the more wrinkled you get."

And as I look forward to birthday # 75 on Friday, I can vouch for the wrinkles!