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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And Then We Were Home

Left Binghamton around 10:30 under cloudy, cold skies. The Susquehana almost to flood stage all along I 81. Fields flooded in places to the point where you could not recognize where the River bed lay. Ponds still frozen though the ice is thin and in places has melted--they aren't frozen solid. The temperature was in the 40's and places still had a great deal of snow. I didn't take many pictures because this is an area I've traveled so many times in my life--NYS is my old stomping grounds. I-81 is an awful road--non-maintained and it is sad the beautiful farms that were destroyed to create it. I am hoping that we will choose another route the next time we sally forth--I'm tired of that same old same old. Once we were off it and on our way to Amsterdam and thus to my sister's in Saratoga I retired the camera. Barb had a lovely luncheon for us--pork chops, beets, mashed potatoes and apple sauce with a glass of cabernet. Had not expected such a feast and it was delicious. She even baked brownies and served coffee with them. She and I talked a blue streak and Bill sort of rested in the living room after we ate. Finally, around three we headed home. I stayed awake until around Castleton and then gave up the ghost and slept until Woodstock. We did stop at 7 Barrel and had a few beers and a sandwich with Allan Gold and Jim Mulligan and a few other folks and then it was home--once more through torrential rain and fog. Betsy was here when we arrived and flew out the door to greet us--got the biggest hug I've had in ages. Soot refused to greet us and Misty didn't even show her face. We all talked for awhile downstairs and then Bets came up and sat on the bed to talk with me and Misty. Later she spent time downstairs with Bill while I watched The Good Wife, which I'd seen. I'm not as bummed as I have been in the past to be home but I sure am bummed about this weather and the cold--that I had hoped we'd avoid. We got home exactly one day later than last year and the plan was to be gone longer. Nevertheless, it was a good trip. I spent yesterday going through the bin of mail and going over the various bank statements that came in while we were gone. I also started the new book that I've gotten from Good Reads--it hasn't been published yet and is an unedited draft due to be published in May. So far I'm enjoying it immensely. Today, as you can see I got caught up on my logs and photos. Tomorrow I shall figure out what we spent on average per day and what our lodging came to with 11 free nights. Will let you know because I cannot urge you enough if you travel at all to sign up for the Choice Privileges program--it costs nothing and gives plenty. So for now, roadies, I'll give you a break until the next great adventure. Hope you enjoyed the ride and that you'll come along again. Hugs to you all, the Prodigal Ponds

The Worst Travel Day Ever!

Woke up to horrible cold and rain. Had wanted to go to Emmitsburg to a shrine there that I haven't seen for 30 years but it is outdoors and the weather was not conducive to a visit! So instead of heading to Hagerstown and fried oysters for lunch we opted to go to Hancock and pick up I 70 north to Breezewood Pa and pick up I 76 and the same path we'd taken through Pa when we left home. Breezewood had been our second stop because of Snow back in February so a rather funny shaped circle was complete with the path home from there serving as a string on our odd balloon. Pennsylvania is an interesting state--where Interstates interchange traffic is taken through the downtown and so it is in Breezewood. We recognized the intersection immediately since we had almost been flattened by a non-stopping tractor trailer there when we were returning from dinner to our motel back in Feb. Very shortly East of Breezewood you pass through Tuscarora Mtn and then through Kittatinny and Blue Mtns. In this stretch of road Bill and I were discussing his driving, my navigational skills and the interaction of the two. I had to take a shot of him as he lectured me on the importance of being able to tell a left turn from a right turn no matter the orientation of the map in regards to our direction of travel and the dangers of confusing the pilot while trying to align the map with the actual car alignment. I think my considered response to this pontification was bullshit!That was most likely our last bantering moment as Pa once more set us into city streets to get between I 76 I 81 in Carlisle! What genius decided the only way the businesses in these burgs would thrive if all traffic, trucks included, was funneled through their streets???? At least, I 81 is a straight shot to Binghamton, NY and as you can see we had torrential rains, and fog and traffic the whole way. I was almost crying at times--my throat even hurt the way it does when you are overwhelmed and want to cry but cannot and you just feel you will die of the pain. I cannot understand why anyone would choose to drive through that and not stop and wait for a better day. When we got to Binghamton I told Bill I wanted to stop in Applebees. I don't usually go out in Binghamtom but rather just veg while Bill goes to some little local pub I've never even seen. This time I needed food AND a huge dessert. There were three college girls at the bar with us--so cute--eating appetizers which were half price for happy hour for dinner because they are broke college girls. I told them their parents would be proud--one girl said well, maybe but probably not the cocktails. I said--you are adults now and I'm sure they'd understand--told them about Bets and the Hauf--a hangout that she didn't take us into while we were in Bozeman. It was fun to hear their conversations--make-up, boyfriends, signing up for classes, deciding whether to go on to a 4 year school, pregnancy and human sexuality class. Just fun--the gamut of topics. Our bartender was a gay young man named Daniel--he pretty much told us he was gay, as he was talking about hearing conversations at this bar and at the gay bar downtown where he worked and the kareoke there and the mixture of locals--rural--and gay urbanites. It was fun--then we talked about Cher and Steisand and their appeal to gay men----I'm still not sure what it is, although he did allow as how Cher was one of the first celebrities to embrace gays. Reba is a big fav, too. His mother on the other hand, like me, loves George Strait! Went back to the room and watched Dancing with the Stars--think I'll wait a few weeks to go back--by then perhaps that mother of a hundred kids and Pamela Anderson and sadly the Astronaut will be gone. It was painful to watch the three of them --for different reasons but painful nonetheless. Bill went out to his pub for old times sake for about an hour. Should have gone with him but I ate my triple chocolate suicide instead!

Oh My Aching Leg!

For the first time a bird shit on our car--right there in Huntington, WV! Told Bill--good luck or not--my pictures were going to be severely damaged by the avian gift. So within a short time we stopped at a rest area and the window was cleaned with some of Odes' ( you remember him, my hardware store man in Oklahoma) superduper cleaner and paper towels that are like chamois clothe! We could tell we were back in the East--piled up highways forming abstract designs against the sky--who was the guy who did mobiles? Calder? I think he got the idea from these structures. I had wanted to go to the Blenko Glass factory in Milton but being Sunday the first tour started at noon and being close to Huntington we would have had nothing to do. So we moved on along I 64 across the Kanawa River, almost bursting with snow melt water and running fast. At Charleston we picked up I 79 North. Eventually, since we'd skipped breakfast we began to get hungry and saw a sign for the Antique Cafe in Big Otter. With a name like that we had no clue what to expect. What we got was a fellow in a WV baseball cap cheerfully greeting us with " Welcome, Boys and Girls! Are you here to Browse or to Eat? We have a great little meal today--homemade turkey with yams and dressing or stuffing or whatever YOOU call it, a fresh baked bisquit and deviled egg all for 6.99!" Well, what would you do?? We ordered up two--me with dark meat, Bill with light. We browsed a bit while it was being plated up and then enjoyed the meal. The yams were canned but not candied but I'm used to Prince yams with the purple label, on occasion. The dressing was Stove Top doctored up nicely although not seasoned enough--but I liked the way they cooked it in little servings like oatmeal cookies. The deviled egg was made with Miracle Whip--too sweet. Now those were not bad things --just sort of run of the mill food. The bisquit on the other hand was delicious and the turkey was great. All in all worth more than the price. There was an older couple enjoying their Sunday meal and when we said we were from Vt the man said I know a lady from Vt--she's here in the nursing home. Don't know where she's from in Vt and don't know her maiden name--she married a fellow from here. Her brother in law in Vt takes rides and stuff from fair and festival to fairs and festivals. I said, well, now, we are a small state but that doesn't give me enough to go on to say whether we know her or not. He laughed. After we ate they stopped us for conversation and the man started to pull out the chair for me to sit at their table. Said I couldn't stay but thank you--nonetheless we chatted a bit. Seems when he retired they sold everything and bought a mobile home. They were gone for three years, stopping by once or twice to visit but each time they came north they traveled with the dogwood. I must have looked perplexed though I thought I knew what he meant and I did. They'd head north and if the dogwood wasn't in bloom yet they'd go back south to where it was in bloom, stay a few days or so and try again. They did this all the way back to WV so they were not home before the Dogwood was in bloom. I like that approach! Well, after three years they came back looking for a small place to store some stuff and head out again but his wife and her sister bought his old family farm of 100+ acres and their wandering days were over. Besides, he said, we had some relatives getting into their 80's so it was time to stay around.
During the course of our chat I mentioned that I'd been in the area in 2006 and had taken 19 through the hollers and Ireland, WV. With that another couple piped up that they were from Ireland and that the big festival was going on. So I suggested to Bill that we pick up 19 and follow it to Weston so he could see the hollers since he'd never been so far into the State before. It is an experience--those hills are so close and the valleys so deep--it is no wonder that whatever incest took place there or may be taking place there ever happened. Particularly before cars--you couldn't get out of your own holler with any ease--eventually it had to be your own family you were marrying and having children with.,.....Especially, in winter, with ice and snow--that holler is where you stayed! Unbelieveable terrain which is somewhat evident in the rolling twists and turns of the Interstates but not completely since there has been a widening not present in the old two laners with no guardrails and barely wider than the dirt trails they replaced. Another world! At Weston, where I wanted to go to Lambert Winery, one of my favorite places but closed on Sunday until April, we resumed travel on I 79 til just outside Morgantown where we picked up I68 east toward Cumberland. Maryland welcomes you, the counties in Maryland welcome you and you are warned about wildlife etc within feet of the border! And here, though the roads were clear ( explain that accident?) , we encountered our first snow--in the woods, on the mountains and in the shadowed gullies of Western Maryland. E.KY, WV and W. Md are all definitely part of Appalachia with these shadowed vallies and mountains. Natural Roller Coasters! On one decline we saw this group of houses facing the road squarely--it looked like a toy village. On another decline at the foot there was this cordoray arrangement of little trees separated by snowy rows--looked like green and white striped awning material! At last we came to LaVale, Md and possibly the loveliest of the suites we had on this trip. It was an upgrade. It is interesting, our best upgrades in general, were given us when the room was a free stay room and I asked if an upgrade was available..When we were paying for the room, we rarely got an upgrade--it is as though if we are paying an upgrade is getting something for nothing but if it is a free stay--a suite takes the same number of points so they give us one. Odd! But in this instance we were paying--$77 plus tax. I was limping a bit because all the walking and climbing and probably stiff kneed action had set my right leg into impossible pain. I bought Aleve in Guthrie Ok for the leg but still had not taken any pain medication--I just HATE popping pills and if I can handle it without crying I just don't take it. I was however quite tired and limping just slightly. I asked Dave if there was an upgrade available and without hesitation he said absolutely. We were on the third floor and when you got off the elevator and turned to the right there was a small foyer in which our door was located. Bill said --oh,oh,something tells me this is good. And we opened the door--a half bath immediately to the right, off a huge living room,dining room,kitchen with a flat screen TV and views of the woods and a little stream. Walk to your right past the TV and kitchen through a door into the huge bedroom with a full bath to the immediate right and a whirlpool tub past the bath. And another flat screen TV. OMG, for $77????? We dropped everything and headed out to dinner--as we passed the desk I thanked Dave profusely and he just grinned and said " I thought you'd like that!" We went next door to the Texas Grillhouse--none of which I saw anywhere in Texas ( no Texas Roadhouses in Texas, either!). Bets called just as we sat down so I ordered dinner and went outside and called her back. She just wanted to know where we were--told her in Rutland and that we were stopping at 7 Barrel for dinner and would be home in about three hours. Dead silence and then, firmly, " That's NOT funny!!!" Then a little more quietly ' You aren't, are you?" I assured her no, she probably had another day to clean up the house! After dinner it was back for some TV and once the meal had settled the whirlpool. Who needs Aleve????? A good day, but too close to home!

Traumatic, Exhilirating Tour with Freddie

Arrived at Buffalo Trace at 1025, the first tours began at 10, on yet another beautiful day. As we pulled into the driveway several tours were at various places on the grounds but Freddie was standing with a group of three men and two women in front of the gift shop. I walked up and greeted him laughingly chiding him for not remembering me--after all this is my fourth visit! I don't want to think how many people he has given tours to over the years. Freddie is the third direct generation to work here and a cousin of his grandfather's was the first family member to work for the distillery. I asked if he were about to embark on a tour and, if so, if we might join them. He regretfully told me that his was the hard hat tour and that we needed to call ahead for it. But he graciously escorted us into the gift shop and informed the lady organizer that I was a repeat visitor and to get us set up for the next tour, which would start at 11. Bill and I decided to look around the gift shop and were checking out some really smart fleece vests for him when Freddie returned and said his group had invited us to join them. We were thrilled and off we went by 1030. Little did I know what lay in store but I am happy I did not, for I surely would have passed up a really wonderful experience, frightening though it was. For those of you who don't know, I am terrified of height and it never occured to me that it would be a factor. The tour started innocuously enough--walking along spoke of the history of the oldest distillery in the country and how it was one of a very few allowed to function during prohibition--both as a wareouse for the products of other distilleries which had been put in a concentration camp--Buffalo Trace--by the government and as a manufacturer of medicinal spirits! One could, with a prescription, obtain bourbon and other distilled products during prohibition and, with the cooperation of one's physician, even select one's favorite brand of libation--this one works best for me,Doctor! One could obtain a pint every few weeks for one's condition and naturally anyone else in the family with a condition of one type or another would need a prescription,too. Amazing how many sick relations people had! He also spoke of the taxation process and free houses. As we passed several old buildings he explained what they were used for and what the plans are for them now. The big white building is to be revamped and I believe will once more be part of the processing. The building at the end of the alley which is half brick, half stone was where Dickel was distilled after prohibition before they returned to Tennessee. It is also the building in which Freddie played as a child as his grandfather worked. I did not take a picture of the clubhouse this time but adjacent to the plant is a lovely landscaped park. It is open to the public and this Saturday there will be an Easter Egg Roll there. It is also a site where weddings etc take place and where the family who owns the plant throws various company events. Two years ago, Freddie's father at age 92 was honored by having one of the main gathering rooms in the clubhouse dedicated to him with a plaque and all. The occasion was the rolling out of the 5millionith barrel of whiskey--they put a single barrel into a special rick house--the world's smallest--which is large enough for one barrel. Ten years later, and 999,999 barrels later, it is rolled out and tapped for a big party. I was there four years ago and had hoped to be there for the 5 millionith but didn't get back in time. I would have loved to see his Dad. He said it was the only time, other than when his Mother died, that he saw his father cry--at the dedication of the room to him. Freddie said the family is so good, they honor employees and past employees while they are still alive and able to enjoy the honor along with friends and family. His Dad is still going strong and has at least one shot of bourbon a day! We continued among the old buildings and saw where the power for the plant is generated. Since I was last there the honchos have decided to reuse their byproducts ,both solid and gaseous ,to generate power. They were selling the materials to cosmetic firms etc but now they redirect them through a souped up fuel injected big engine into the boiler and reclaim almost all the material --saves them a boatload in fuel costs and is cleaner. They still sell the solids to pet food manufacturers among other places. We came to the grain elevators where he spoke of the type of corn used for the distillation process and said that the new genetically engineered corn is not doing the trick so they have hired farmers to grow the old white corn that works best. He also spoke of the grinding of the corn and said there are two ways of grinding--the old grist mill grinding wheels which some of the distilleries in the area use and a flat flaying process which does cause sparking and is used here. He had heard the process criticized by other distillers as charring the corn and ruining the flavor so at one of the company gatherings, where there were several master distillers from several distilleries he asked what the difference was and which was better. He said a knowing grin passed over their faces but they admitted that the process was not the issue--both were just fine--it was the size of the particle produced that was important. 7/64's of an inch is the magic number, I think. Anyway, too large and the material would not break down sufficiently by the end of the fermentation process and too small and the particles would clump like flour in lumpy gravy. Can you imagine the trial and error that has been gone through over the years to figure some of these things out? We then entered the building next to the elevator--there were several large steam vats there where the corn was undergoing pressure cooking and then he turned and went up five stairs, through which I could see, then five more and then five more and onto the floor above which was a grating like a fire escape. I started to shake and became frozen in place as he showed us the moving contraption which could be moved along tracks to various apertures in the ceiling through which corn or barley or wheat could be accessed. Then the contraption is moved back over the pressure cooker below and the grain is released to it. Shortly thereafter we walked across the room to an innocuous looking door above three steps which led out onto the roof--to look at the Kentucky River --and the story of how the kegs were taken by flatboat down to New Orleans. There was a very large barge grounded across the way and one of the fellows said that's been there for years--make an offer--it is quite rotted but not as old as one would imagine but new to Bill, since barges were not prevalent on the Ct River. The Hudson River has always had barges so I recognized it from my vantage point holding onto the building for dear life and looking over my shoulder. I needed Bill to reenter the building before me since as one went in the door--to the right was a low railing that didn't look able to prevent me from falling to the floor below and in front was open space and to the left that flimsy grating floor! He stood so he blocked the front and right and I turned toward the wall looking straight ahead and not downward. Was relieved when Freddie led us across the floor toward the stairs we'd ascended but almost died when he continued up two more flights. Once more we were on grating but here the room was filled with huge vats placed rather closely together and though they descended the full three stories below us I was able more or less to keep my eyes firmly on the fermenting brew and my hands on the edges of the vats. The smell was redolent of grain fermenting but because carbon dioxide is the chief gaseous product the room is very well ventilated--with fans and suction air ducts carrying away the gas. Each vat had bourbon at various stages of fermentation from violently " boiling" highly active yeast to quiet lactic acid covered and therefore fatty looking brew. When the materials are ready to be removed it is done by a fractional division process--the fatty top layers drawn off into one set of pipes, the product drained into other pipes and the dregs removed from the bottom when all the rest is gone. Then the stainless steel vats--and there were several empty, which I was warned by two of the men on the tour NOT to look into--are cleaned from the top using hoses at very high pressure. Then the process begins once more. From this room, we moved up a few stairs into a really nice small room with a cement floor containing smaller fermentation vats for other products.This room was dedicated to one of the old timer heads of the company but I was so happy to be on solid ground, even 3 and 1/2 stories up that I must admit I didn't pay too much attention. Although in this room was the beautiful copper still and testing overflow barrel. We then walked through a small hallway which was obviously on the side of the building but since the brick wall was on the right and the passageway was covered on the left and overhead and I knew I was on a roof I was fine. Momentarily! All of a sudden we had another flight of stairs and though covered I could tell they were out in space and then a long passageway through which I just about ran and started hyperventilating. Bill was behind me and one of the ladies in front--she kept up a rapid pace and when the passage terminated in another flight of stairs she urged me to look forward only. I got to the top and there was a quick left turn onto a grating landing--I almost died but she said no--you're on the roof now just a couple of steps up into this room. By the time I got into the room--I'm breathing hard now, just remembering--I could not catch my breath, I could not move from the spot I arrived in and I could not look down for now we were in another building five stories up on a grating floor. I felt dizzy and grasped but lightly the buffalo head spigot at my side. There was the beer vat in front of me and Freddie was speaking of the fact that what now existed really was a beer--just a fermented highly alcoholic white beverage. White Lightening! Which they now sell in the gift shop. He spoke of how this is where the master distiller comes to test the product for clarity, uses his hygrometer to test for density and also tastes as well as feels the product to determine whether it is fit for barreling. At last I was able to focus and am grateful that Freddie and the others just simply ignored my situation and carried on without fuss. Now, Freddie pointed out the camera that is a video cam and that one can access on the web. He said that this is why the tour members must be over 18, since if the feds saw underaged people now tasting and feeling the beer the onus would be on the tour guide as well as the distillery. At this point he put the whiskey into our hands and said we could do as we wished with it. I said I wasn't sure it was a good idea for me to imbibe and they laughed and said maybe it would help me get down easier! I did put a touch on my tongue--evaporation was almost instant and the little bit burned going down quite a lot. He then had us rub our hands together and smell--corn! Again--yeast! And as the last of the liquid evaporated a slightly oily feel which I rubbed into my hands making them smooth and soft--the residual oils of the lactic acid --a fatty acid--formation. Such a simple process of anaerobic oxidation of a mash of grains and distilled water containing high concentrations of limestone produces such a complex substance! At last I thought we must go down now--the product is produced--but no, Freddie had one more stop--another open roof--but this time the guys warned me to stay put at the door and I did. Then Freddie, with me standing right behind him at the top of the stairs, stopped to discuss something else but by now I was totally shot--I could absorb no more and as we stood there I once more was getting agitated. After what seemed forever he headed DOWN the stairs. I let everyone go before me and with Bill blocking the view of the huge factory windows at each landing and the drop off over the railing I managed to get to the ground floor fairly rapidly and without stumbling. As we walked into the alley way I realized we had covered at least four buildings and the connecting tunnel I'd seen at the beginning of the tour high over my head was the one through which we had passed. One of the fellows said take a picture --that is where you've been--aren't you proud of yourself. And to tell the truth--yes indeedy--but I'm not taking that tour again. Nevertheless, I am so happy I did--other than the irrational fear it was sooo interesting and unlike anything I've ever seen. Especially, since I taught this process for years in physical science and chemistry and now, for the first time, I saw it in use on a very large scale. Wow! We returned to the gift shop and were astounded to find that it was 1:30!!!!! Three hours--incredible. Another tour awaited Freddie--when does he eat?? And so we were turned over to another fellow for tasting. I tasted one of their expensive bourbons--don't ask which--I don't know--but it was only ten years old and not as smooth as the Evan. They don't let you taste Blanton's, nor do they sell it in the gift shop but that is one I'm going to treat myself to this year. I purchased a bottle of Buffalo Trace, their signature brand as well as that fleece for Bill. In my fatigue and relief I forgot to buy any of the Rebecca Ruth candies made with BT but I'm going to call today or tomorrow and have them sent to me. They are the best! After a quick lunch at Applebee's we hit the road taking I 64 to avoid Lexington. I know that 60 goes right through the center of town and I knew that Bill would have a tough time with that. Once past the city we got off the Interstate and took 60 through the lovely town of Mount Sterling and on into Owingsville, where General Hood's home had been for sale in 2006. It is occupied now and looks as nice as ever--across from the Post Office. 60 is a beautiful road and the landscape is wonderful it is however in Eastern Kentucky and the lay of the land is more than rolling and the road is twisty, narrow and has no guard rails. After the stress of the tour I told Bill I couldn't handle any more fear and to please return to the Interstate. You KNOW I had to be really strained to ask for that--I HATE Interstates, the traffic and the trucks but it was less stressful for my frayed nerves!On we continued Northeasterly to Catlettsburg,Ky where the 26th largest refinery in the country is found. It covers 650 acres on the Western bank of the Big Sandy River and has the capacity of 212,000 barrels per calendar day! Once across the Big Sandy we were in West Virginia in Huntington and the worst Chinese take-out I've ever had in my life! Where's the bourbon when you need it?


The Battle of Perryville, Kentucky

We began our day by returning to Heaven Hill where I splurged and bought Evan Williams 18 year old! It is just too wonderful to pass up and I do like to sip bourbon on really cold nights when the cabin here has drafts sending chills through my body. It is far from air tight, this place! LOL Abe had nothing on me--well, maybe I do have a few more luxuries--like electricity when the power doesn't go out! From Bardstown we took a sort of Southeasterly swing to Perryville and then a semi circular Northwesterly swoop to Frankfurt, the capital of Kentucky and home of Buffalo Trace. Again the day was splendid though windy and cooler so that at the Battlefield in Perryville my lightweight blouse did not serve me well and I had to don a jacket. I'd long ago gone back into shoes rather than sandals. Arriving at Perryville the welcome sign had another next to it welcoming us to his home town, Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry, which meant absolutely nothing to me, but sounded like county and western music group types. Sure enough I googled Montgomery Gentry and that's what they are--a pair of male singers whom I may or may not have heard--none of their songs' names meant anything to me. However, Mr Gentry is a real country bumpkin jerk and none of their stuff will ever mean anything to me. He bought a bear on a game preserve for $4000 + and then while it was caged he shot it to death with a bow and arrow. He then had the video, which he had shot, of the murder doctored to look like he'd taken the bear in the wild, tagged it and reported it. A real big game hunter he is and a man's man---Ech, Ugh, and Gag. Just an a-hole with a pea brain in my opinion. Wouldn't spend one penny to help him make a living! But none of this was known to me as we enjoyed the wonderful day and a tour of a little known but vitally important Civil War battle. Bill joked that the Rebs were attempting to take Ky's bourbon stores for their own, but in actuallity they truly hoped to control some really major waterways that would have caused great problems for the Union. The Confederates were very demoralized after their defeat in Shiloh and decided to take a more offensive approach. They had reports of plentiful supplies and a sympathetic population in Ky and so they decided to invade. Starting in August of 1862 the Southern armies marched into Ky and took Lexington, Frankfort, Louisville and were within miles of Cincinatti within a month. On Oct 8 the armies met in Perryville and basically engaged because there had been a severe draught and water was at a premium. Perryville sits along Doctor's Creek and the Chaplin River into which it feeds. Needless to say both sides needed what water was available. Although members of both armies met in pre-dawn hours the battle didn't truly begin to rage until about 2 pm. The Union commander, Major General Don Carlos Buell, who was headquartered only two miles west of the battlefield did not know about the engagement until 4 pm when he received a message from the field! This area is so convoluted and contorted with intertwining hills that a phenomenon known as an acoustic shadow is formed and he could not hear the sounds of battle--it is an eerie situation --but though the valleys are not deep like the hollers of West Virginia they are situated in such a way that sound waves must show interference rather than reinforcement. It is sort of like a mirage in the case of light waves and was a factor in several Civil War battles--resulting in the lack of reinforcements being sent to support troops at the front lines! There is even a book written about it : Civil War: Acoustic Shadows by Charles D. Ross. Don't think that will be high on my reading list but one never knows! At any rate, this battle raged for 5 hours and of the 20,000 Union troops, 890 died, 2,893 were wounded and 437 were captured or missing. Of the 16,000 Southerners, 532 died, 2,641 were wounded and 228 were captured or missing. The Union dead were eventually taken to a National Cemetary but the Confederate dead were left where they fell. The townspeople and the students from a local school came to the battlefield and buried the Southerners in a mass grave which now has a monument and a nice stone fence but only two headstones. Without the use of dogtags most of the soldiers from either side are unknown. Those that died later of disease or wounds are those most often identified.The average age of the men was 25, although one fellow was 70 and a Union Medal of Honor winner was 16. General Douglas MacArthur's father, Lt Arthur MacArthur fought in this battle as did Sam Watkins, the author of Company Haitch, which I read last year. And that shorty, who became quite famous later in the war, especially at Gettysburg, Phil Sheridan was here. Three things about this site which fascinated me: first the battlefield is pretty much intact with few changes such as some power lines and a few homes and barns that post date the battle, second that this is a STATE site and not National and thirdly, that it is the only site where I have seen documentation about the soldiers' reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation. It is interesting to note that men from BOTH sides found it to be an overstepping of authority for the government to decide the issue of slavery. My history classes have always led me to believe that Northerners were adamantly against the institution to a man! Even as the mill owners made their fortunes using the cotton picked in the South by slaves. In the book I'm reading Kate also says that Northern men resented the change in their mission--that they now saw themselves fighting for the black man's freedom when they had volunteered to preserve the Union. It gives a whole new perspective, for me, of the attitudes of the times in both parts of the country. But at any rate,though the Rebs won a tactical victory at Perryville, they were outnumbered and retreated by way of Harrodsburg toward Tennessee where Buell eventually drove them. They did not hold Ky nor did they try to reclaim it, though there were a few calvary incursions from time to time. As a result the battle is considered to be a Union strategic victory. In Union army records this is the Battle of Chaplin Hills, since the Union used geographic features to name battles while the South used nearby towns to name battles. This can be a touch confusing at times! After taking the auto tour around the site we followed Braxton Bragg's route to Harrodsburg and where he turned southerly toward Tennessee we continued Northwest to Frankfort but arrived at Buffalo Trace at just 3 pm and the last tour time as well as quitting time for the employees. We recrossed the Kentucky River and ate at Johnny Carinos--my favorite Italian restaurant of all time and stayed at a Days Inn, don't do it!!, since there were no Choice properties in Frankfort. And so another beautiful Kentucky day ended.

A Beautiful Day with Abe!

Spent another beautiful day in Kentucky, this one exploring the earliest haunts of Abraham Lincoln. Met a really nice couple from Ithaca, New York--around our age, they both grew up on dairy farms in that area. They were happy to tell us that they only buy Cabot cheese, which they find to be so creamy. Bill told them Jersey's provide the milk with its high butter fat for the cheese. He also admitted that we buy Price Chopper cheese and sometimes Helluva Good, both of which come from New York State!! We met several times as we toured the grounds of the birthplace and wound up walking to our cars together. As we did we began to discuss books for some reason and found ourselves comparing notes on McCullough, Michener, recent autobiographies we've read, are reading or are planning to read. I must get the one on Joe Biden. She's having trouble getting through Obama's but says she will finish it. I love when we get to talk to people about stuff like that! One of the really great perks of these trips--the people we meet! When my sister and I went to Texas in 2006 we arrived at the birthplace just about 4:30 and the site was closing for the day. Since then I have read articles about the log cabin that is enshrined in the Grecian temple-like structure. Apparently, the temple is located at the site of his birth cabin but the log cabin within the temple, while, at first blush, thought to be the actual structure has since been carbon dated and is too " young"! Still, I had hoped to stand in the place where it all began. It was not to be--the temple has sprung a leak in the roof and is undergoing repairs, as is its interior and whatever may have been damaged on the cabin. Oh, well, the spring is still there which gives the place its name--Spring Hill Farm. Thomas Lincoln settled here with his considerably younger wife, Nancy Hanks, about whom almost nothing seems to be known--there is not even a painting or photo of her. The painting at the museum is one that was created by the artist from written descriptions of her and he has made her in such a way that her son resembles her and shows nothing of his father in his visage. At any rate, Thomas and Nancy had a daughter Sarah and then Abe. As a result of property ownership di sputes the Lincolns relocated to Knob Creek when Abe was two and he attended school down the road in Athertonville,where there is a historical sign at a most inconvenient stopping site! There are all modern houses there so nothing remains of his time.He spoke of his time at Knob Creek and the blab school he attended. In a blab school students repeated their lessons aloud to learn them--I did that, too! For the rest of his life he read the newspaper aloud, claiming he learned better when using two senses. I don't do that--we had to read silently in school and I still like complete quiet when I am reading. While at Knob Creek, Abe fell into the creek but could not swim--I would imagine it was deeper and wilder than on the day I took these shots! At any rate, his buddy,Austin Gollaher, held out a branch to him and he latched on and was saved. When the court case on the Spring Hill Farm was lost the family packed up and moved to Indiana. The Lincoln home was torn down and the cabin that sits on the 250 acre farm is believed to be Austin's, moved there in the '30's. So no Lincoln log cabins to be seen-- not even where his grandfather, Abraham Linkholn, lost his life in an Indian raid! I must say that a lot of work has been done on Austin's cabin and the ranger at the Birthplace told me that the site is staffed in summer now and there are plans to cultivate and plant that beautiful field between the knob-like hills and along the creek with plants that Abe and his father would have tended. I think that will be really nice--especially since this road was, during his time there, the main road between Louisville and Nashville and many a group of slaves was marched along it. Lincoln claimed that one of the reasons his father chose to leave Kentucky was because of the use of slaves there. After that small does of history we continued on our way to Bardstown and stopped at Heaven Hill Distillery to taste their wares and have Bill see their beautiful tasting room. We did not take a tour for I wanted very much to do that at Buffalo Trace with my favorite tour guide, Freddie. We were given two bourbons to taste--one a single barrel ten year old and the other Evan Williams single barrel 18 year old. What an incredible difference! The ten year old burns but with only four drops of water the burn is significantly reduced. Our leader said he pours it over two ice cubes and lets the ice melt as he drinks. That is how I drink it as well--I cannot imagine mixing a good bourbon with anything--just bourbon and branch. But, oh, the Evan Williams! Smooth as silk alone--a true sipping bourbon. And its price is indicative of its fineness! So we bought some honey, mustard, marinade and sorghum all fortified with bourbon and went on our way to the Quality Inn. Our plan was to eat at Dagwood's, an elegant restaurant on the main street of Bardstown where Barb and I enjoyed Elijah Craig marinated rib eye served on a barrel stave, a wonderful soup and salad bar, and a delightful character waiter who was a McCoy of the Hatfield and McCoy feud. I could not find it in the phone book or on-line and so I called the Chamber of Commerce--the lady who owned it has died and though the family tried to keep it going for about a year without her cooking the place just withered and they closed. OHHHHH! She suggested several other places and we drove up and down looking for another I'd seen in the phone book only to discover it empty and shuttered, too. So off we went to Applebee's where the food is good and the place usually friendly!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If I Show You, You'll Have to Die!!!

Got up in Bowling Green and headed, not to the Corvette Museum, but to the Assembly Plant to see Henry Ford's innovation in action. ALL Corvettes are assembled in Bowling Green but one cannot bring anything--purses, cameras, cell phones etc--into the plant--so I'll have to try to tell you, briefly, what it was like! I have never seen such a thing before, nor has Bill, and may I say, the organization makes me happy--this is the way I like to function. You can reach blindfolded for a bolt and it is right where it is supposed to be---yes, yes, yes! I am sure the jobs are as numbingly boring as being a Customs' Inspector but is also as financially rewarding. The synchronization of conveyor belts is awe inspiring--and the timing of their movement is wonderful. Each auto moves so that there is six minutes for the job to be done and then the car is gone and another is there in its place. Six minutes doesn't sound like much to attach two doors and all the inside lining of them but no one on the line was racing--they were not lazing about but they also were not rushed--sometimes, I suppose you could chase your car down but sometimes it was lifted above you and moving onto an entirely different addition, such as tires. The best part though, two belts at angles to each other--like two railroad lines coming together--one has the car and chassis and the other has the engine attached to the transmission etc --the engine one is lower and the car is coming in above --the engine assembly is moving upward and the car downward--so slowly it was almost impossible to see them coming together--but then they were "married" --each bolt hole and projection lined up exactly right for the worker to torque and tighten etc. It was the most impressive part for me although several people with us --most memorably the couple who looked like back-up country musicians from the 60's---liked the first starting of the engine---one lady actually did a windmill " dance" for the workman and then gave him numerous ' thumbs -up' when he just revved the thing to deafness. Then into a small garage like thing to REALLY rev that baby and test who knows what--green lines and numbers etc,etc, etc. Squealing of tires led to a couple of bumpy type pads to set the suspension system and then into a car wash sort of deal to make sure there were no leaks and then out the garage door to the test drive road, which we didn't see to listen for strange noises etc. Now, if there were noises that could not be identified the car comes back into another garage like room where it is twisted and bounced obscenely to try to find what the noises are. I laughed to myself when I saw one lady, dressed in office garb, using a feeler gauge type thingie to make sure the hood and body and doors and body have some esoteric space and no more between them. The tour guide waxed euphoric about the keyless entry and keyless start up --I commented to Bill--just one more thing to go wrong and require hundreds of dollars to repair--that is when helmut-coiffed artificial leather cum fur jacketed multijeweled country girl in front of us turned to say how wonderful these features are--since she and helmut-coiffed tweed jacket with leather elbows and tasseled loafer male escort own one. I said, as she looked me up and down, I'm sure! Well, we all choose how to spend our money--the cheapest Corvette is $57,000---which is fine, since I've never cared to own a sportscar and only was there to see what an assembly line is like. It could have been tractors or trucks that were being assembled--I just wanted to see Henry's idea in action! Being curious about the origin of the components being assembled here I emailed the lady in charge of customer relations--it would seem that the large components such as doors and hood and glass is manufactured in Ohio. She told me that the number of components is so great that a complete list of parts and origin is not available but that each Corvette has a sticker which shows the percentage of parts of US origin, Mexican origin and Canadian origin. I cannot remember what Customs required for a product to be called US made!I LOVED the signs in the parking lots on the plants property--for GM vehicles only--all others will be towed. Don't know how serious they are but offhand I didn't see anything but GMs! Anyway, not being lover of hot cars Bill and I skipped the Corvette museum and instead headed to the rib shop. OMG--the best ribs I've ever eaten in my life--I am ruined. The gentleman who ran the place sounded like the warden from Cool Hand Luke--'" What we have here is a failure to communicate." Can you hear him???? But he looked nothing like that weasely man and was actually quite nice.And then we moved on to Glasgow, Ky taking pix of lovely houses and strange pruning of some Southern trees and the way they sprout shoots from each pruning site to form beautiful canopies. I remember trees in France pruned that way! In Glasgow we met Kristy a really sweet young lady--who asked me if I thought Kentucky is Southern. I said yes, I consider Ky in the South--she said no, she thinks of it as Appalachia. Well, I had to agree but Appalacia is not one of the normal divisions of our country! I gave her and her brother, Ryan, the last of my 1000 pt vouchers. They with Kristy's twin sister are headed to Nashville tonight ( Thurs) and will fly to Mexico tomorrow for six days. I urged them to have a great time but to be careful. The next day we headed up to Mammoth Caves--where Bill took a three hour tour. At first, I don't think he was going because I really wasn't interested at all. I've been to Howe Caverns and Russell Cave and the magnificent Carlsbad Caverns and am fine on Caves. I knew he wanted to go and am glad that, once he realized I was sincere that I could entertain myself just fine, he took the Snowball tour. As he left the bookstore lady who heard our conversation took me under her wing to tell me that there were less strenuous tours but I assured her that I didn't want to go caving. So then she told me there was her bookstore, a typical souvenir shop and a Ky made craft gift shop in the complex. Also there is a cafe and a restaurant and if I didn't want to read in the car that the hotel lobby was cozy with couches and deep seated chairs and even a TV. Armed with all the possibilities I returned to the car to retrieve my book, Kate, a memoir of a Confederate nurse. While there I called my sister to check on her recuperation, which is going well, and read USA today. then I headed for the bookstore but since I wasn't a getting into spelunking I wasn't interested in any of the titles. So I moved on to the souvenir shop--where I had a lovely chat with the clerk who worked as a secretary at the University in Louisville for 20 years. When their son moved to Europe this summer she and her husband sold their Louisville home and she left a job she loved to move to their vacation home. She thought she'd be able to get a job at the University in Glasgow only to find they only hire alumni, of which she is not one. She's really sad and says hindsight is 20/20 and she is living in the backwoods and misses Louisville. I just bet she does--almost in Ohio and Indiana. Sad! From there I moved on to the Crafts store where there were many lovely things--baskets, pottery, jewelry and odd metallic sculptures made of scrap metal--all outrageously expensive. The lady there and I agreed that it is time to clear out our homes not add more stuff! By this time I was starving so I moved to the cafe where I had the Jack sandwich and enjoyed watching the old lady who only made one club sandwich at a time, painstakingly choosing just the right one leaf of lettuce that went on each layer, examining it thoroughly and cutting off any blemishes, imagined or real!The little blonde waitress was quite solicitous--almost think she was making a move on me--but not really sure. Wasn't uncomfortable or alarmed just perplexed and amused. And then I took myself to the lobby and ensconced myself on a couch to read--but looking at the clock realized that it was 1245 and Bill would be back at 1:15. At 1 he appeared in the door looking for me. So we walked back to the car and for the ride to Elizabethtown we had the stories of our day to share, including the fact that you could not take bags, backpacks, knapsacks, cameras etc in the caves. Because of National Security!!! WHAT??? Now, for the contest! I was taking a picture of a billboard when a tractor trailer obscured the bottom of the message. So the first one who emails me what Hell is_______ ( that is, fill in the blank correctly) I shall send a luscious pistachio cookie right from Eagle Ranch in New Mexico! Who says my emails aren't fun???? Didn't take many pix today though we went to Heaven Hill distillery today and explored several Abe Lincoln sites as well as chatted at length with a couple from Utica, but my fingers are tired so that will wait for another day! For now, a good night!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Winter Returns

And so this morning our two weeks vacation from winter has officially ended! I'm back into shoes and warm tops--49 degrees, windy, bitterly cold and gray. After we leave Ky I'll just sleep the trip back home away. I'm furious and depressed. But today was somewhat interesting--we went to Dover Tn to Fort Donelson. The pictures are pretty self explanatory but there are some other interesting notes to be made. About two years earlier, Grant and Buckner had gotten together in NYC as old friends and classmates from West Point. Grant was broke and depressed and Buckner lent him some money until his brothers could wire him funds from Galena, Ill. After the war, while Grant was ill and writing his memoirs, Buckner visited him to thank him for his treatment of the Confederates in every instance of their defeat at his hands. ( I wonder if he visited at Gansevoort, NY?) And when Grant died, Buckner was one of his pallbearers. Also Smith, who was under Grant's command at Donelson, had been an instructor of Grant's and Buckner's at the Point. Just two more examples of the strange entanglements that occured during this strange War. This battle was the precursor to Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) and Gulfport which we explored two years ago. I purchased Kate--a memoir written by a Confederate nurse--to go with Company Haitch which I'd read after our Shiloh experience. It is a memoir of a Union infantry soldier, which was fascinating. Then we followed back roads once more into Kentucky and started moving Northeastward to Bowling Green. Along the way we came to a monument to rival the Washington monument--well, more like the Bennington monument!--marking the birthplace of Jefferson Davis. So now I've seen his birthplace, his home in Mississippi and his final residence on the Gulf. All without any planning at all! LOL Arrived at Bowling Green and met the desk clerk, an obnoxious hulk from New Berlin, New York with a very poor opinion of the City--just a rustic--what can I say? So now I'm going to read the end of my book and try to keep warm. I dread returning to Vermont--still cold, drab and miserable with just t mud season to look forward to. I've decided I don't like the East anymore. Well, good night

A Depressing Run Across Tennessee

For a fleeting moment, with my sandals, white pants and light weight shirt and a weakened sunshine, I thought there might be one more day of warm vacation but NOOOOOOO! I froze, it rained and the overwhelming ' Chrisianity' of Tn drove me mad. The last few minutes in Ms and the familiar road along the Shiloh battlefield faded quickly as we crossed the State line and encountered 'Jesus" signs plugged into multitudinous lawns as though he were running for office along with the Weems woman who wants to be County something or other! By the time we came across Emilee Kay's with its full to overflowing parking lot I was sure they weren't serving lunch but that we had stumbled into a prayer meeting--it was after all, Sunday! It might as well have been--they all belonged to the same church, they had just come from church and the heavy guy with glasses talking to the waitress is the minister--the conversations were all about church or church related topics. The crowning touch was receiving my dishwater coffee ( caffeine is probably sinful! ) in a church mug!!!!!! I had said during the Jesus sign jungle that if I lived there I'd put a Blessed Virgin in her bathtub shrine on MY lawn--but at this I was going to demand another mug--Bill was adamantly against it--so I refrained! But give me a break--this is a public restaurant and I am Catholic--suppose I were Jewish or Buddist or Muslim. Forget it--all of us C,J,.B or M are lost souls here in another Bible belt. I looked at the mug shelves as I left--there was a whole set of Pentecostal mugs--the church down the street and probably the Rev's --and a whole set of secular mugs--most likely for use on days other than the Sabbath! It got worse--we left and as we drove down this backwater road I noticed a small sign tacked to a tree--I told Bill it said ' repent'--he said, oh, I don't go back for pictures for you but I'll go back for that one--so there it is ; Repent in the middle of nowhere! So we continued along the back roads over more rivers than I can remember until we came to Loretta Lynn Land--oh, I mean, Hurricane Mills where she owns a house that she no longer lives in and many varied enterprises, all of which we drove right by. Eventually, we arrived in Clarksville, just outside of Nashville and Logan's Roadhouse--we ate at one in Florence, Alabama last year and really liked it. I had a great mesquite grilled salmon with baked yam and cole slaw. Then we checked into our last free suite--the tenth free night of the trip----and I read until midnight, while Bill slept. I am really bummed that we are getting home before April---now he says he didn't know I waned ted to go to Arizona--or that I wanted to be gone until April. Well, if he'd go get a hearing aid maybe he'd hear more! We were going to get home by the 15 th to file our taxes and I said innumerable times that I wanted to go to Ajo. Bottom line--he wants to get back to Price Chopper and mr. nice is getting what he wants--nicely, of course!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Sound and the Fury or Billy Joe McAllister

I'm not sure why I wanted to see Rowan Oak! Ole Miss sure does not make it easy to find! eAnd, to my knowledge I've never read Faulkner ( or Falkner, as his mother spelled it--actually, as he did 'til 1917 ish )! As a matter of fact, to my great embarrassment, I thought he wrote Of Mice and Men, which I did read! ( Sorry, Mr Steinbeck!) I guess it was because I remember seeing a black and white photo of him among the trees in front of the imposing facade of his Mississippi home and I wanted to stand there, too. And so I have, but not after much searching for a place which is on a back street and then in the woods and to which there is but one very tiny sign that you would not see unless you went down the equally small back street that leads to his. But having missed it the first time by we were able to see the Ole Miss campus and what a lovely place it is--a circular common surrounded by large, old and beautiful buildings, including the Lyceum which would be recognizable to anyone old enough to remember the civil rights movement of the '60's. What ever happened to James Meredith? Bill said he hopes he worked harder in school than Bill did--somehow, I'm sure he did! Finally, we did unearth Rowan Oak and it is lovely. As we wandered the grounds I discovered the lovely resurrection fern clinging to the oaks--nicely green with all the rain. It dries up like dead moss in drought but as soon as any moisture appears it perks up lovely as ever! I was also astounded to see daylight through the trunk of one of the beautiful trees lining the walk and yet the canopy was full and healthy. The magnolia that Faulkner used as the burial marker of the disconsolate lady is the tree beneath which the young man stands --it is huge, full and lovely. We left town by way of the Square and one of the residential streets that branch out from it. Almost as in Mass,Ct, RI college town fashion the houses are elegant and huge. And then we were on our way to Corinth where we did much Civil War research two years ago..As we left New Albany we crossed the Tallahatchie and a bridge--the one from which Billy Jo jumped???? Actually, no, that one was in Greenwood, which was the next town over from Grenada. That bridge collapsed in 1972, probably to the relief of the local constabulary! LOL We also climbed a very high and narrow ridge and passed through a town called Kossuth--founded in 1840 as New Hope, it was renamed in 1852 for a Hungarian revolutionary, who apparently cut quite a swath through American Establishment of the time and who supposedly seems to have been paraphrased by Lincoln's For the People, By the People etc at Gettysburg. Who knew??? So here we are in another lovely suite after a Ruby Tuesday typical meal--neither great nor terrible! We have not paid for a room since we stayed in Odessa, Texas and in most instances have been given upgrades to suites. I cannot praise the Choice Privileges system enough! But those who have traveled with us before know how much I love the perks of membership. So now back to the Crimsom Rose--not Faulkner nor Steinbeck but much easier on a tired mind! Good night all--until tomorrow from somewhere in Tennessee. PS Bill admitted over coffee this morning that we probably could have gone to Arizona but he was afraid we'd run out of money and he hadn't taken into consideration the number of free nights I kept telling him I'd accrued. I could SPIT!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

This is NOT Spain!

Today we left Hattiesburg and headed North and then West with the idea of getting to Clarksdale and dinner at Morgan Freeman's restaurant Madidi and go to his blues club--Ground Zero--probably tomorrow. That is not going to happen--Bill could NEVER eat at a restaurant that is in the same price bracket as Morton's! His misery would ruin it for me and then he'd start nagging that we don't have enough money to continue traveling and need to head home. As to Ground Zero Blues Club--the music doesn't start until 9 --which I knew would be the case--but he goes to bed by then. I'd love to rent one of the upstairs apartment for the night but can you imagine him above a juke joint jumpin until 2 am......So, until I can get my sister to come back with me or Linda, who shared an apt with me above a bar in NO and loved it, I guess, this was a big digression. Nevertheless, the pictures show how lovely and how changeable the State is from Hattiesburg Northwest to Grenada where we are tonight. Bill did say we could go to see the Blues museum next to the Blues club and maybe have lunch but it is in downtown on a Saturday. Memories of Tulsa assault me--I think not! So, we'll go to Oxford and see Faulkner's house tomorrow and then, depending on the weather we'll head into Tennessee with the hope of going to Frankfort, Ky--where I've wanted to go the last two trips--or we will go, yet again to Alabama. This is really not my favorite part of the country. Oh, to travel in Fall and not be so restricted by crappy weather! This may be my last trip with Bill if he continues to insist on Winter travel. Barb and I will go in Fall and I'll see the Pacific Northwest again and maybe get to Colorado and once more to Arizona. Those are the parts of the country I've decided I like--I've had enough of the deep south, with its kudzu, humidity, bugs. A sign today--Dead Termites Don't Eat Houses! Great!!! Another: Aspire to Inspire before You Expire. Can't you just hear:-- Aspieah--Inspieah--Expieahhhhhh!!! Is Mississippi Burning a book as well as a movie? How could something so terrible have happened in a place that is so beautiful--what 50 years will do, though! Barb, you should see Koskiusko--which the fellow, in Hattiesburg, who thought I was a native of that city,says is pronounce Koskiesko--actually more like Koskesko. Total strip built from the Trace all the way past the PO --you would not recognize it! Well, a bientot--I'm tired. Off to the Crimsom Rose--nothing on TV, alas! What's new?

A Hoped for Touch of the Confederacy

Oh, what a glorious day on the Gulf and, had I known we were to stop so early in Hattiesburg, I would have lingered on the beach. But, once more, I am ahead of myself. Having read Varina Davis, First Lady of the Confederacy and having visited Jeff Davis' birthplace and the grave of his first wife, which he took his new 20 year old bride to visit on their honeymoon, I was anxious to visit Beauvoir, his last residence. It reopened after Katrina last April--a month too late for us to visit last year. I had hoped to hear more about his final years here but instead Rosalie Boardman focused on Katrina's damage and the subsequent repair,which is rather amazing as you can see from the photo perched on the marble topped table with the large mirror right inside the doorway. Again, I am ahead of myself. The first thing one encounters upon entering the gate is the major construction project to rebuild the Presidential library, the original of which was built in 1998. What a shame! In the museum are pieces of silver service, the presidential service ware, etc, which were on the first floor of the library and were literally strewn over the property by the foot of water and the waves that topped it. I was amazed at the discovery of Varina's engagement ring ( well, a replica ) that was unearthed and salvaged! The second floor held Davis' books and for the most part they survived and are in storage but many loose items have been lost forever. The house was originally built in 1852 by a rich planter, James Brown--no relation, alas!- as a vacation home for his family. In addition to the main house he built two smaller duplications called pavilions--one served as a guest house and the other offered shelter to traveling Methodist ministers. There were other buildings as well, work shops and housing for servants etc. A road reached the house from the North and Steamboats, one from Mobile and the other from New Orleans, stopped as well. At the start of the Civil War the family moved back to Northern Mississippi. In 1866, after James' death the family managed to hold on to the property until they were forced to sell it by court order in 1873. The buyer, Frank Johnston, held onto it for two months before selling it to one of the ugliest women, in my opinion!, a wealthy New Orleans widow, Sarah Dorsey, who also was something of an author. Here is where the story briefly told by the video preceding the tour and the book on Varina digress a bit. Sarah, who sort of knew Varina as a young woman, but who was not close family friend,( so far--the stories agree) invited the aging and demoralized and ailing Davis to visit Beauvoir, which he did. She then invited him to move in and write his memoirs, which he did in 1877. Meantime, Varina and their youngest daughter, Winnie take off for Europe for a year. Now, according to the video, when she returned she took up residence at Beauvoir and the Davises bought the place and furnishings for $5500 and Dorsey went off to NO to die of cancer. The book says Varina visited but traveled because she did not like living in another woman's home--sounds right to me! It also says Sarah left the place to Jeff in her will and Rosalie said while that is true there was a bill of sale. HMMMMMM! I say! At any rate, after his death, Varina sold the place to the State of Mississippi with the stipulation that it serve as a Confederate Veterans' Home until there were none left and until there were no widows left or manservants who served in the War with their masters. That's what happened and then, Varina said, it must be a memorial to Jeff and so it is. As to the restoration, furniture is for the most part original and was restored wherever they could do the best job. The staff had prepared the home for Katrina, just in case--she wasn't supposed to hit there but she turned at the last minute toward Biloxi and Gulfport. But the windows were shuttered, the doors covered with plywood, small items had been removed and stored inland. The water and wind tore the front off the house and the plywood from the double door, which blew open. The doors at the back of the long foyer held, however and the furniture piled up against them. The aforementioned mirror which is bolted to the wall remained on the wall. All the rest was heaped up, including the grandfather clock which was Jeff's grandfather's clock! and which still tells perfect time. The beautiful rosewood piano in the front parlor was beneath the ceiling which collapsed and will cost $60.000 to restore--they found another of the period and mounted it on the original legs for now. The trompe l'oeil ceilings have been totally scraped to the original colors and repainted, the faux bois on the doors has been redone as has the faux marb of the private living quarters' mantles. The huge rose garden is totally gone but for the gravel marking the concentric circular paths and the center cross that marks its boundaries. It is on the list of things to restore. There is still much to do but what has been done is incredible. Soon we left along Beach Boulevard--noticing the beautiful condos and resorts, next to the cement pads of destroyed buildings, the for sale signs and the bird sculptures that several artists have created from the stumps of trees that Katrina left on the median or neutral ground as they call it in New Orleans. Then we turned north on Rte 15 through the DeSoto National Forest to Hattiesburg and an inland temperature of 80 degrees. We opted to skip Mobile this time, it is Spring break and the traffic is getting zooey. There is much to see there and I'd much like to go there when I don't spend the night worrying about the Tornado Watch issued until 2 am. We got to Hattiesburg much too early and did not have a place to sit out in the beautiful weather, which was a real waste, in my mind. We did go to Conestoga Steakhouse where I had a wonderful 6oz Filet Mignon and ate some of the sweet potato fries. Nick at Night, as the manager introduced him was a very delightful 26 year old who played TV Jeopardy with me. He taught percussion for a year at the high school level and very quickly decided teaching was not for him. He gives private lessons and will teach a biology course at the junior college in the Fall and is looking forward to that. Came back to the room, Bill watched basketball and I started reading Lauren Willig's The Seduction of the Crimson Rose until 10 and sleep!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mississippi Calling

Started today chatting with our breakfast mates one of whom is bicycling from St. Aw-gust-eeeen to San Diego. He's the fellow at the far end table in the baseball cap. He's from Lewiston Maine and he took his vehicle to St Augustine and then headed out for San Diego. He's been on the road 18 days and is taking the day off--said he felt really guilty--like skipping school! One of his daughter's graduated from St. Mike's in Winooski--the other from Providence College in RI. Then we took off on La 10 and points East. Passed through several tiny towns until we came to Franklinton, La where Bill headed into the Citizen's Bank for his daily dose of nickels( some days he goes to two banks--like yesterday, when he got through all his nickels while I shopped and so needed a new batch to search through!) The clouds were so unusual --large and heavy--dropping some rain but breaking apart to shower us with golden warm sunlight at times. Soon we crossed the Pearl River and entered Mississippi. We continued to Picayune and stopped at a little cafe--the donut spot. Filled with county folk--a grandad and his daughter and granddaughter, three old men and a young fellow listening to them deferentially. And several other old bird couples like us. Bill had the hamburg steak platter with brown gravy, mashed potatoes and fried okra--I had a " dressed " cheeseburger and a V-8. I also could not resist a piece of Coca Cola cake--have got to look for that recipe--delicious--chocolate and sinful! When things cleared out a bit and the waitress could breathe I asked if 90 along the coast was open and driveable--she said I'd have to ask one of the older fellows, Jimmy, who was in conversation with a lady. When he could he assured me that yes, they'd cleaned things up real fine. As Bill and I were leaving he followed us out to tell us a good short cut to 90. I felt just like a local--taking an old County Rd around Stennis -- a NASA site that one cannot enter--the name of which is Texas Flat Road but has no sign with it. And it really was a great shortcut and does not appear on the map!!! And then we were on 90 and along one of the most beautiful beaches-- white sand and man made. And in Gulfport totally destroyed by Katrina and the big one that came after. It is amazing to see what has been rebuilt but sad to see the empty pads on which homes and businesses once stood and realize looking at the for sale signs that they will not be rebuilt--at least not by the original owners. One sign listed a price of 300K per acre.! Cheap for Gulf front property but property that could be wasted once more by the next big storm. When I mentioned the cute blue house for sale in New Iberia to our waitress at Poor Boy's she said you better have plenty of money for insurance! Yeah, and even then you don't know if the company will find a way to renege on paying up! But the coast sure is beautiful--even overcast and choppy. 75 degrees as we arrived in Biloxi. Pulled into our motel on the beach to see the parking lot filled with State Trooper cars--a conference--never occured that it could be anything else--except as I write this I wonder why I wasn't alarmed. I think because they were parked, no cops around and no lights flashing--as a matter of fact it was just like Lufkin, Tx last year when our motel was filled with Texas Troopers for a conference! Makes one feel very safe. Well, all caught up. We are two doors down--separated by the Mississippi Coliseum--from Jefferson Davis' last home--Beauvoir. Last year they were still restoring it but it is finished now and so we'll start there tomorrow morning. Many things to see between here and Mobile and we haven't decided what we are going to do yet. Will let you know tomorrow night. Check out this to see me and Bill in our down time! LOL as suggested by our buddy, Joanne http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIMAM9Golw4&feature=related but this is my favorite http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=350uOqdrFcQ&feature=related So, having been reminded by my favorite Francophile that nuit is feminine, I bid you all a fond Bonne Nuit and a huge hug to Glen.

Waitin' on the Levee, Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee

Well, not really--waitin' for the New Roads--but not before driving through torrential rains from Lafayette to St Francisville. A beautiful drive even so--once we could see where we were going--everything so dripping and green and lush--jungle-like and the air had that indescribable smell of Spring. As we headed toward Opelousas on 49 ( by the way, Linda, that road we took in Lafayette etc, still has signs saying it is the future site of the I 49 corridor! How long ago were we here? Maybe, they are working from NO out--no stimulus money in evidence here! LOL) a twinge crossed my heart--wondering how my Babette is doing in Morgan City--probably ten litters by now! If she is still alive! sigh! We took mostly back roads and realized we had come this way before--and I thought I'd found a new back way! Oh, well--got to St Francisville at lunchtime so we headed for the Magnolia Cafe--a funky place that reminds me of the coffee house I used to go to --something Ground--in Burlington in the 70's. Packed--lots of ladies who lunch--when I was admiring, once more, the lovely old houses, several of which are for sale this year--Bill said, ah, yes, you, too could be one of the ladies who lunch! Hmmmm, not my style--at least not some of the conversations going on around me--"WHY don't they just ARM those big ships off Somalia??? How can a LITTLE boat, with those LITTLE people manage to get those ships? But then, those SOMALIANS have nothing to lose!" " Oh, I just couldn't take two courses at one time--I HAVE to have some down time! " In these horribly arch, nasal, southern drawls! Deliver me! Checked in as the sky opened once more--so we decided to give it an hour. I started to read the paper and next thing woke up an hour later!!! Then we went to my favorite store in La--Grandmother's Buttons. Wonderfully, unusual jewelry using antique buttons--Christmas gifts and a lovely birthday gift for my baby girl, who today ( March 9 ) turned 24! How can that be?????? Since the weather was so terrible there really wasn't anything else we could do--wet, wet, wet --so no wildlife refuge or plantation garden walks. Took refuge in Wing It and had a great chat with the owner, Pete Peterson. Talked about lose of dairy farms, Feds offering small dairy operations a deal they couldn't resist to drop the subsidized dairy operation and turn their land into stands of oaks and pines. He has been a small business owner since he was 18 and talked of the fees and taxes that are imposed on small businesses and how difficult it makes it for them to survive. Also talked of the people, who, six years later are still in Fema trailers and complaining about the govt's tardiness in finding them something better to live in. Quite distraught over the fact that these are the people we hear about and not those who have done something about improving their situation on their own. Shared other horror stories such as the waitress whose 49 year old boyfriend is in jail because he had sex with her 14 year old daughter who has since had his baby. The waitress is thrilled with the baby and has no problem about his fathering it. As a matter of fact, she intends on marrying him when he gets out of jail. Of course, the girl is getting Wic and is on welfare--her med bills were paid by Medicaid. He's on SS disability and the waitress is working at the restaurant. Told him that sort of thing is prevalent in the North, too! Just crazy--all the programs available for these situations and no incentive to take responsibility and get themselves a decent life. UGH! Finished the evening with the only night that has decent TV--NCIS,NCIS--LA and The Good Wife. Even stayed up to see Margulies on Letterman. She's a neat gal.

Here an Oyster, There an Oyster, Everywhere an Oyster!

Monday was truly a lazy day--slept in until around 9, took our time getting out on the road! It was a rainy, overcast day--really the first we've had that we could say was terrible weather. Eventually, took the 20 mile drive down to New Iberia and Bojangles Sushi and Oyster Bar for our annual plate of oysters on the half-shell with an Abita Springs beer--but they don't carry Abita anymore so I had a Stella instead. Then across the street to a tiny bookstore that I love--James Lee Burke, an author of David Robischeaux novels--David a world weary New Iberia cop--new movie made last year used Tommy Lee Jones as Dave---good casting! Anyway, JLB lives and writes in New Iberia in winter and in Missoula, Mt in summer. I always go in a buy one of his books when I'm here--never buy them anywhere else--so may not get all his books read!! LOL Also picked up a book called God Bless Jazz by a Jesuit priest who played clarinet in the New Orleans French Quarter with Pete Fountain and Al Hirt while serving his vocation as a high school teacher in one of the Catholic high schools for some years and as the retreat director in two different southern Louisiana Retreat Houses in other years. I found that fascinating--though not surprised--those Jesuits are amazing men and the order allows them such individual freedom to develop their own interests. Some are practicing lawyers, one has been a Congressman, yet another, whose name escapes me just now, has been a very popular author and lives in his own penthouse apt in Chicago! All the while fulfilling their obligations as priests of the Church! Forgot to ask the gentleman what happened to Hadrian! There was a full sized Roman -type sculpture of Hadrian in front of the Hadrian building and he is gone!!! The teller at the bank had no idea what I was talking about and he was right around the corner. I'll have to contact the New Iberia website I guess. Our next stop was the Konriko Rice Mill to stock up on some of their seasonings which we have used up and Bill got some Red beans and rice. It is always fun to chat up the ladies there. One showed me a clever doll--claims her nanny made her one when she was growing up in the '60's/ An upsy -daisy doll--turned one way up she is a little white doll but turned upside down her dress goes inside out and she is a black doll. So in private she could play with her black doll but in public she'd turn her the other way up. I would have bought one but I don't collect dolls and $40 was too much for something I really had no display place for. Our last stop--early dinner at Poor Boy's and our fried oysters--they were heaven, as usual and the sweet potato is so good that you add nothing but a little cinnamon--no butter they are soooooo sweet. Our man in the bookstore said that Shucks in Abbeville has the best oysters though he allowed as how Poor Boy's weren't too shabby. He likes Shucks better than Bojangles but I cannot help but wonder if that isn't because Bojangles is also a Sushi Bar and is run by Japanese. Then it was back to the motel and a lovely evening of reading and relaxing. Heaven is smothered in oysters, folks!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etouffee, OH,MY!

Got up early to a very overcast sky and headed to the Hole in One for a personally prepared by a delightful man who had spoken to Bill last night and told him that breakfast is eggs, bacon, coffee, juice, homefries--the regular! And so that's what Bill had--I just opted for dry wheat toast, bacon, the biggest glass of orange juice--a beer glass full--I've ever had served me at a restaurant and coffee. Because I didn't have the full offering he only charged $4.50 for me--most places would have charged that much for the oj!!! We chatted about where we'd been and where we were going--he suggested down to Beaumont and East on 10--nope we've been to Beaumont twice and he said--oh, yes, Beaumont is Beaumont! Also not 10--never 10--clickety-clack clickety clack all the way across the country from Yuma--horrible! Nope we took 103 out of Lufkin and then followed it across the rest of the Piney Woods to the Sabine River and on into Louisiana--but NOT my Louisiana--pretty along the Sabine but NOT French Louisiana--just more piney woods.( If Italy is shaped like a boot, Louisiana is shaped like a work boot! ) Came to Oberlin after following back roads--tons of beautiful big buildings--not a restaurant or cafe in sight. Until then any eateries we'd seen were closed--even the the Welcome Center had been closed--but right until around 12:30 every Church we passed had a full to capacity parking lot. Stopped at the Donut Cafe and guess what, they had about a dozen doughnuts, no coffee, except bottled Starbuck's, which is overrated even not bottles. They DID have a restroom, however, which was a gift. Also, I got bitten by a black fly on my wrist, avoided a HUGE wasp on the walkway and managed to close the car door before the yellowjack got in with me--though he/she continued buzzing my window til we blew him off going down the road! That IS one of the drawbacks of Spring-BUGS!!! On we went until we reached Jeff Davis Parish and Acadiana--home at last--I love this part of Louisiana. I'd live here but for the horrible humidity and the need to build one's house on lifts or else of brick to avoid the termites. Came to the rice cum crawfish pools and knew we were there--Cajun country. Several pools had white herons feeding on those crayfish. When we reached Lafayette we continued down to New Iberia--bummed out for two things--YESTERDAY was the Great Alligator Race!!!! and Bojangles--the oyster bar was closed! So back the 15 miles to our motel--the Garden style Comfort Inn--sight of last year's Korean kareoke and dinner at the finished restaurant. Bill is watching bull riding on TV! I'm hoping I can get Masterpiece otherwise no TV for me--will finish my book--dying to know who the murderer is anyway! Staying here two nights but a huge violent thunderstorm is predicted for tomorrow so may not go anywhere--except New Iberia for oysters and the bookstore and then to Poor Boy's Riverside Inn for dinner of fried oysters. Who cares what the weather is!!!!! A bon nuit, all!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Back in the Big Thicket

Up by 8, on the road by 9 and just two exits down stopped at The Texas Ranger Museum. Oh, my goodness, men and their guns and leather and a 45 minute propaganda movie on how wonderful these men were who tamed Tejas! Right! A badge and unlimited authority and paid in land! I'm sure " justice " was always well served--I suspect there wasn't too much heigh-o Silver or Tonto kimosabying going on. As a matter of fact, other than taking care of fence cutters and prison escapees and rioters at unlawful prize fights the biggest aim of the Rangers was to keep Mexicans in Mexico after battling them in the Mexican War and to annihilate the Comanches. I'm sure there were some upstanding good men but in general other than that badge and government backing most of them weren't a great deal better than the so called " lawless"! Bill and I laughed when the film mentioned Hamer, the Ranger in charge of the Bonnie and Clyde massacre, who wrote a letter to King George of England, offering to send the Rangers to fight Hitler. He was quickly informed by our government that he could not do such a thing and violate our neutrality. The King sent him a letter expressing his gratitude, but what was even more hilarious, was the film's assertation that Hitler had heard of the Rangers and was concerned about their involvement on the British side. Hamer had maybe a 100 men to offer! Too reminiscent of certain guys I encountered in Customs--actually , several of these guys went from Rangers to mounted Customs inspector.As you can see I was more impressed by the collection of bronzes than anything else and I liked the oil, the title of which is A Little Shade. After about an hour and a half we sought out our Farm roads and headed in a zig-zag fashion East. We came to Flo which is not even on the map--one can see why--and was impressed that Miss Texas hails from this crossroads of Farm Roads. Soon we arrived in Crockett and did the Sonic stop--I always like to eat in Sonic once--just because. On our way out of town, on this beautiful almost cloudless 74 degree day we passed motorcycle groups who were taking part in a one day rally--lots of families and campers and kids --perfect day for it. Stopped to read historical signs as usual and then we were in the woods of the Big Thicket. What a delight to see flowers in bloom, and trees leafing out and the Trinity River flush with muddy water--to say nothing of the mud covered trucks entering Lufkin with us. Went to the Lufkin Antiques Mall on Frank and 3rd and picked up three old souvenir spoons--The Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge( wish it had been the Manhattan Bridge--my grandfather worked on that one ) and one from White Lake in the Adirondacks. Then checked into the motel--had dinner at the Hole in One restaurant in the motel--ate there last year and the steaks were great. We both opted for chicken this year, though. Bill had Chicken Marsala, which looked and smelled wonderful and he said tasted great,too. I had a wonderful leafy salad with blueberries, blue cheese crumbles and walnuts---soooooo good. Doing laundry now and trying to figure out if we want to do our traditional New Iberia oyster bar, Books on the Teche and Riverside Grill fried oysters in Lafayette or go to St Francisville and over to Alabama--Mobile way---oh, me oh my---traditions are important, no????? Let you know tomorrow night what we decided. Aside to Leslie--tape came loose on our pennies but I got some new and hooked them right back into the expense record book, which is tucked into the pocket on my door. They are taking care of us so far! LOL

Friday, March 5, 2010

Travel Day Through Constant Change

Since yesterday ended with 77 degree weather I opted to wear my new blouse, a flimsy, feminine Christmas gift from my sister........well it was overcast and around 55 and windy all day, so I froze. We decided to take Farm roads today as much as possible and for the first 70 miles or so, headed toward Waco, we were able to do so. Traveled through the Ranchland Country noticing the fields that had been prepared for planting and those being irrigated since they had already been. There seems, at least for now, no lack of water, unlike the Texas farther West.he Planting takes place on the flats while the hilly areas are left to brush and grazing beef cattle, sheep, goats and llamas. We passed through towns of not much left---and read the historical signs. At the end of the 70 miles we came to the metropolis of Goldthwaite, where we got nickels from the bank, gassed up and had lunch. I opted for a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. As we moved into Hill Country Gringo Bill played Clint Eastwood in the Good, Bad and Ugly. Eventually, we came to McGregor and a turnoff to Crawford--site of the Bush ranch, which we didn't look for---I just wanted to see the town--just like all the rest of the small towns that time has left behind. And then we continued on to another free motel room--this one just simple and clean and comfortable but nothing exceptional. Ordered pizza in and watching TV about Anne Hathaway and her interesting boyfriend, American Greed. Tomorrow The TEXAS Ranger Museum, maybe and then on to Lufkin to my favorite antique emporium in Texas. So for tonight--a great big Texas hug to all from the Tumblin' Tumbleweeds!

All You'd Ever Want to Know about Oil!

The time change finally caught up with us and it was 8 am before I woke up in Odessa. Rather amazing considering the railroad track was just across the road from the motel and a crossing was just up the road. There must have been a freight every half hour and the combination of short and long, fast and slow whistles was quite loud--to say nothing of the rumbling of the cars. I love those sounds so it wasn't a problem but I wasn't sure I was going to be able to sleep---not to worry--slept like a log until that 8 am freight--then it was all over. Organized the car, once more and did who knows what else but it was after 11 by the time we hit the road. I had forgotten to turn the phone off the night before so it was deader than a doornail. Had to unpack the old computer and make reservations on-line for a motel in San Angelo, our next stop. Never having tried a Rodeway and wanting to use points rather than funds for the room, I booked our usual non-smoking, two queens for 10,000 points--considering we have over 90.000, that seemed fine. All the mundane chores completed we headed up the road about 10 miles to Midland, a town closely associated with both Messers Bush. But that wasn't why we went there--I had discovered that the Petroleum Museum is located there and I wanted to know more about the various structures we'd been seeing associated with the oil pumps scattered all through the landscape of this portion of Texas. Amazingly, the museum really was three museums in one of really disparate subjects. The bulk of the structure IS dedicated to all aspects of oil: geological formation,exploration, location, pumping or capping, distribution and economics. Structures and their uses and the history and development of oil drilling technology. In addition, a whole two room gallery was dedicated to fabulous oils by Tom Lovell. All the preliminary sketches for several of his oils were on display as well as the finished works. Although I enjoyed the petroleum section, appealing as it did to my interest in science, I must say this would be the area I would return to see and would have loved to have spent more time looking at and absorbing his art. Lastly, since he is a Midland boy and he developed his race cars here, there is a gallery dedicated to Jim Hall and his Chapparal race cars. The aerodynamics appealed and the sleek, plasticy looking cars were fun but since I'm not a big race fan, much of the impact was lost on me. In fairness, it was also the last gallery we explored after two hours so we were somewhat museumed out. It was great fun to see Bill attempt sliding into the model built for that purpose--his size 13 feet and long legs just wouldn't fit even with removing the steering wheel. I would never have been able to even bend my right leg to get over the side much less shoehorn my zoftic self into that low slung beast! LOL By 2 pm we were finally on the road to San Angelo. Passed out of oil country into real scrub land that didn't seem to be used for much except some random bovines amongst the rough looking growth. As we approached San Angelo we entered what Texans call the rangeland country. When we checked in I asked if an upgrade were available---a two room suite--the best we've had so far!!!! And FREE!!!!!! After unpacking we went to the Little River Club on the grounds and met our perky blonde barmaid, Lacey. Very male oriented in her short shorts and well endowed scoop necked top which she leaned provocatively over the bar as she took the fellows order--poor Bill didn't get much of a look since she stood primly upright when serving us! LOL A sweet girl--it is just so amusing to watch the interactions. An old fella came in and ordered a beer and said loudly to her" Whal, hi girl, when'd cha get out of jail?" She turned purple and we all laughed --I've never been in jail, she said--to further laughter. As she moved down the bar, he said to the rest of us--you think she blushed then, wait til I ask her to marry me! Which he did--he also commented on her tatoos and asked if we were going to get to see them--we did but if she had any in indiscrete places she kept them discretely hidden. Chatted a bit with Bonnie and Keith from someplace else in Texas--talked about the differences between Northern and Southern borders--they aren't terribly thrilled by the Mexican incursion that extends many miles into Texas. Although, they vacation in Mexico. They fly in, never drive across the border and don't visit close to the border because of the terrible drug related crime on both sides of the line. After a few beers and with the arrival of the regulars for poker night we moved next door to Nacho's for delicious Mexican food. The manager's second grade son had been assigned lines--I will not talk in class--and, though his large family was gathered at a large table for dinner, he was sent to a booth to do them. He came to the table several times for Dad to check his work--and he was sent back to do them correctly. We adults chatted about the fact that he is really a good kid but has to learn proper classroom behavior and also. that once assigned such a chore, his best bet is to take the time and care to do it right the first time. OH, how I remember those days--being sent back to do it over and over--I was never successful at getting Betsy to do it. I was able to get my students to do their work, most of the time, but Betsy was a whole new ball of wax! After chomping down on what I thought was a really good looking piece of green bell pepper and finding it was a really HOT JALAPENO, I skipped the other pieces but still woke up several times with horrendous heart burn and nothing but water to squelch it. I think I finally fell asleep around 2 and woke at 7. Just a little tired tonight!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And so, here we are in Odessa, Texas!

Oh, Spring has reached NM and Texas at least around the Panhandle! The sun here is so bright --the air so clear--that it is blinding and there are mirages and images become confusing. I'm not a hat lover but there is true practicality in the big brim of those Cowboy stetson's and my straw imitation. Speaking of cowboys--they are impeccable--I saw a man today in faded, CREASED, jeans and they don't wear t-shirts but well pressed dress type shirts. Their boots are more often work boots that pointy toed boots, but then four wheelers have pretty much replaced horses so pointy toes in stirrups are not necessary. From the planters I saw yesterday, misidentified initially as golfers--LOL, to the huge harrow that up both lanes of our road--I thought the tractor was moving under an overpass before we got close enough to see there was NO overpass and the arching structure was the road wide harrow--plowing, harrowing and plowing are well under way. Bill says the ground will be reaching 50 degrees soon, if not already, and so seeding will be starting within days!!! But I'm ahead of myself. We left the motel in sunny but 39 degree weather and returned to Portales to visit the Blackwater Draw Museum--closed!!! No one seemed to know where Dalley's windmill collection--85 from around the world--was located so we departed on Rte 88, headed for Texas. We came to a sign--Texas 476--on a post --and that was it--no welcome--no good-bye--you are in NM and when you pass that dirt road, you are in Texas. But that dirt road--it led to Guilla Wildlife Refuge---a huge salt bed--an almost dried up saline lake. Bill went a bit mad with the camera and I had fun with the tumbleweeds. As we returned on the dirt road it was fun to realize that the left side was NM in MST and the right side was Tx and CST. A bit confusing for those two farms!!! And the tumbleweeds that were trapped in the fences on both sides made the road even narrower. The real boonies, I'm telling you. We zigged and zagged along Farmroad 476 until it joined Farmroad 214 which ran North-South for many miles. We came to Needmore and I must admit I took a picture of the only structure that supported the name, though I have to admit--there wasn't a great deal there. We then came to Muleshoe Wildlife Refuge which, unlike Guilla,had a visitor's center--though not much of anything but stuffed birds to look at. Basically, a string of three lakes make up the Reserve, the first of which Paul's Lake was the most interesting--adorable prairie dogs to welcome you in a prarie dog town--of course, they are only cute to foreigners like us--they are varmits and loved in the West just abo! ut as much as woodchucks are in the East. Met a Texas couple who, in 64 degree weather were cold and returning to their car despite their winter weight jackets--okay, maybe fall weight--but we were reveling in warmth at last. Apparently, controlled burns are undertaken periodically and it was interesting to see a cactus --tight to the ground--that survived one. I also saw a lady bug who against the blackened stubble looked like a lovely orange gem. Came across a clutch of Buffalo Soldier graves as we moved into Morton, the largest of the tiny communities without restaurants through which we passed. An older, toothless black man was riding down the road in his motorized scooter, headphones on. We pulled alongside and asked if a cafe could be found and he said--sure, there on 1a14 where all the cars are. And sure enough, there it was, a small local cafe, with a St. Patrick's Day tree--I'd seen one at the restaurant in Santa Rosa, also, but it is a new thing for me---an excellent and reasonable food. The waitress grew up here and said that the crossroads of 114 and 214 in Morton is historical but I could not seem to find out why--must be an old crossing of important trails. We then continued through such varied terrain--sand dunes --neither agriculturally developed or oil dredged; cultivated and harrowed fields; a huge feed lot for dairy cows who do not seem to be pastured; fields of beef cattle and finally, at Denver City, the largest oil field I'd ever seen--both sides of the road--oil rigs and the power lines to support them--my pictures don't do it justice--nor can you smell the stench--a gas station with gas spill with an undertone of sulphur--just awful. Laurel-Billings Montana ten times over! And then we came to Seminole--another of the towns which apparently doesn't yet know that it is politically incorrect to have Indians as the name of its sports teams! LOL By this time the temperature had reached 70 degrees!! 214 ended and we picked up a more improved road 235 and so into Odessa---a huge town through which we had to drive to reach our motel. Opted against the suite upstairs in order to have a downstairs room with outside access to the car--that is to say, not requiring us to tote everything through the lobby--needed to totally unload and rearrange the car. Bill was so freaked by the drive through town that we opted to stay in and eat some of our on road provisions. As we pulled into the driveway we realized the temperature was 77!!! Yes, yes,, yes--a la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally!! LOL So, now, once more we are on the same page! Haven't a clue where we are headed tomorrow--but I know this--I ain't rushing! Good night everyone--we are now only one hour earlier than you--we have lost an hour. Sleep well--until tomorrow and wherever the winds blow us next...K and B

An Expensive Day!

Yesterday broke bright and beautiful and a lovely yellow balloon rode over the white sand below and in the bright blue sky above! We headed for Tularosa but did not get far, since Eagle Ranch lies between Alamagordo and Tularosa and it has been a favorite place since 2000! Oh, pistachios of green chili garlic flavor, hot red chili ( which I didn't buy this time--just finished the bag from two years ago--I'd put them away and forgot them--but they are really too hot) and lime flavored in wonderful burlap bags. Pistachio cookies and cranberry biscotti ( they probably won't make it East--so good with morning coffee!) Picked up a few other odds and ends but no wine. I'd bought some there last time but don't remember being so impressed that I couldn't wait for our return. Luciano, the young man who waited on us, was amused by the fact that I won't order from home because I won't pay the S and H but rather make a jaunt every few years out to NM!!!! Well, I get more that pistachios for my buck that way! LOL Then to the post office where I bought some stamps and met a teacher from Old Saybrook Ct. She and her husband flew into Alb and were on their way to Las Cruces to meet up with a classmate from Old Saybrook HS with whom she graduated 50 years ago but hasn't seen since. The lady didn't make it back to Ct so they came out here to see her for the first time since "59!This lady is recovering from an attack by one of the learning disabled she teaches in the mental hospital in Ct. She had surgery on her right shoulder and needs to return to work next week--so they are flying out of El Paso. They visited the Bosque so we rhapsodized about it. Then she shared stories about el cheapo Kate Hepburn whom she saw around town very frequently as she grew up--Kate took her trash herself to the recycling place and even in her 90's heaved the plastic bags into the bins herself and then tottered over to her car and drove off. People fully expected her to go into the bin with the bag she was so tiny and frail. She also shopped at the local IGA and had the stock boys carry her groceries to her car and off she'd go. She left money to the town to refurbish the theatre and town hall and create a performing arts center, though the town had to raise some funds, too! Then it was to the winery, which we'd skipped two years ago and wine tasting at 10:15 in the morning. Purchase some Symphony and an expensive but delicious bottle of port. Bill bought some pecans from the trees outside. Then it was through the Mescalero-Apache reservation through Riodoso and Riodoso Downs and past--thank God, not --over Capitan to San Patricio and the Hurd Museum, which we'd also by-passed two years ago. Judy was truly fun--she gave us the geneology of Peter Hurd--born in Roswell, educated at New Mexico Military Institute( MIMI for short--everything for short! ) and two years at West Point before convincing his parents that he wanted to be an artist. Cute envelopes addressed to parents with drawings on them and along the margins of the letters to show he had talent and interest. He contacted NC Wyeth and asked to study with him but NC was tired of students lacking in discipline and dedication--hmmmmmmm!--but Peter convinced him that his military background prepared him for that and NC relented. Peter met NC"S daughter, Henriette, soon married her and after the birth of two children, convinced her to come to New Mexico to San Patricio--I wish you could see it! A dusty spot down a steep hill with several dusty roads, a few houses, a Church and his little ranch. How did she EVER survive after the social standing she had in Brandywine,Pa and Portland, Me. But she seems to have LOVED it and her son is surely a New Mexican and has the talent of his mother and father combined. How I wished I could have afforded even one PRINT of anything any of tree have done! I settled for notecards and postcards of the few works they had! An especial fav is one Peter done of LBJ as an horse's ass! To understand why he would have sketched such a disrespectful thing I suggest that you google a search " Peter Hurd's LBJ's portrait" I could never do the story justice!!! From our cultural interlude we moved on into Roswell, where, as before, we paid no attention to any of the alien hype stuff and had lunch at Pepper's. I had a roast beef dip and cole slaw but Bill had a Mexican reuben--corned beef, sauerkraut but pepper jack cheese and green chili sauce! Once we left Roswell it was like we entered a whole another world of desolation. Flat, desert, NOTHING for miles--a train track that ran alongside us just as empty as the road we traveled. Then as we approached Elida we saw the rear of a train--like a snaky red and green necklace racing across the expanse. We didn't seem able to catch it--it was moving so fast. But in Elida, it crossed our path and so we were stopped--to admire Elida's welcome sign!!!!! It was so wonderful to see this bit of civilization--a wind farm in the distance, a cop creating a speed trap in a broken down gas station and a train that ran the road next to us--until at last, we overtook the engines--smoky and hauling heavy up the grade. We were going about 60--Bill figures they were making about 55. Soon we left them in our dust and eventually came to Portales and on into Clovis--As we approached across the emptiness, Bill tartly said--oh, yeah, I can see why prehistoric man chose this place to settle! Checked into our upgrade--another comfy suite--hit Applebees for a salad and beer and called it a day! But it was a good day--we both laughed when we saw that we were 2 1/2 hours south of Santa Rosa--where we'd entered NM --knowing that today Clovis would be our exit into Texas!