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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Texas At Last

Thursday February 28, 2013 Comfort Suites Room 114 Palestine, Texas 6:52PM

So a pair of Texas no brains were in the room next to us last night. At 6:30 this morning they felt the need to start the diesel truck they drive for Ohlson's Foundation Specialists and go off to breakfast.  Do any of you know how noisy a diesel pick-up is????? Finally, at 7 they took off and I went back to sleep until 8:30.  Checked out by one handsome 20 something guy---black black hair and bluest eyes. They grow them Irish cute in this neck of the woods. I asked him if he was related to Casey Deen who checked us in the night before. Looked like his brother--says he gets that all the time--they are fraternity brothers. He and Bill swapped some Greek comments and off we went.

  Beautiful sunny day once more if chilly. 50 degrees at 10 as we started down Rt 6 to pick up 120 into the piney Louisiana woods and to the Rebel Site and Louisiana Country Music Museum. I was amazed at the beauty of the museum. I expected a ramshackle building, being on a very short dead end road in the middle of nowhere. It is a beautiful building in the shape of a piano, if one could get above it to see. And the amphitheatre is quite lavish and apparently brings in some nationally known country artists to perform. We were impressed. I think the pictures truly explain the museum where we spent about two hours. Got talking to Sandy, who plays music and has lived her whole life in the area. She told us to change our itinerary and meet up with her at the end of March in Palestine ( We in the South pronounce it Palesteeen!) for the three day music festival. She is planning on taking a workshop on the autoharp. Wouldn't that be fun?  But we'll be well on our way home by then. She also recommended a couple of books--Louisiana Rock--about the music and the lyrics that needed to be rewritten for public consumption that evolved into today's Louisiana music. She also is reading Unconquered which is the story of the three cousins, Mickey Gilley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. I would like that one, I think. We were amused by the change in Doug Kershaw's public image from his career with his brother and the solo career in which he really excelled. I can still see him, skinny as Ichabod Crane, in black tails with a fiddle under his chin, whirling like a dervish as he madly played Louisiana Man--incredibly indelible. He is a nutcase,I think, he moved from Louisiana and now has a restaurant in Colorado--who would willingly move to winter???  There was also a Guitorgan on display which I have to research. It apparently was often played by Canadians such as Gordon Lightfoot. It is quite a contraption.

The rest of the day we ran along the Sabine River to Logansport. While it was a beautiful road, disappointingly it did not give us any views of the Toledo Reservoir which is formed by damming of the Sabine. The map made it look as though 191 ran right along the shore--not so. But we turned Westward and into Texas and again, through small almost non-existent towns. Often the sign was bigger than the community--lol. There was construction on the Texas side of the Sabine so we missed 84 and wound up on Texas 7 to Center, Tx--a nice little burg. It was not a major gaff since 7 runs west also and taking 87 north about 15 miles brought us right to 84 once more. Followed it into Palestine---where we stayed about four years ago. The Quality Inn is gone ( actually, we found it is still there but is now a Days Inn) so we stay at the Comfort Suites--all suites but without a whirlpool only $76--and, of course,we were given an upgrade by Carol Nelson--a sweetie who grew up in Astoria Queens and then moved to Islip. Didn't ask how long she's been here or what brought her out. But she is a rig.

Went down to Applebee's for dinner and met Erik--a 39 Texan just returning from life in Venice Beach Ca. He is having a bit of a bad stretch. His wife has left him, taking their year old son. He doesn't know how it is all going to turn out and is up and down about what he wants. We talked about Vt with him--he imagines us living in some sort of backwoods, which was funny. Neat guy and fun to talk with. We could have spent awhile with him but the whirlpool and good TV shows call. Plus, I wanted to do the journal and pix. I've already missed half of Big Bang--ohhhh. Maybe the season is over? Ah, yes, it is a repeat--phew.

So, to explain Reklaw, Texas:

The town is named for Margaret Walker, who donated the land for the townsite, but since a Walker, Texas already existed elsewhere, the town simply spelled her name backwards.[4] Similarly, the nearby town of Sacul was also named with a spelling reversal.

Also, Sandy tells me that Nachitoches is also pronounced Knock-o-tish and rarely, but sometimes, Knock-o-tosh. Legend has it that an Indian chief sent his daughters, princesses, of course, out into the country to find their homes. One was named Nachitoches and the other, Nacogdoches--which is pronounced much more the way it is written--Knack-a-doe-ches.  Nice legend. On that note I'm closing for tonight. Tomorrow Farm Roads--I cannot wait--my favorite way to explore Texas.  Sleep tight--KandB


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Almost Across the Sabine

Wednesday February 27, 2013  Natchitoches, Louisiana  Holiday Inn Rm 110  6 PM

You all can try pronouncing that name and I'll tell you how the young man at the desk told me it is pronounced at the end of today's note.

Woke up at 6:30 and was thrilled to see a beautiful sunny sky, but was astounded to see frost on the cars below our window. Decided it might be bright and sunny but obviously too cold to get out of my warm bed, so rolled over and went back to sleep until 8.  By the time I washed and set my hair, something I don't do every morning, thank goodness, I'd missed breakfast. So we checked out, with me clutching a cup of coffee to go, and left town along Rte51. Within a few miles we saw the action of some natural recyclers cleaning up somebody's pet dog. As we slowed to take a shot the birds dispersed along the road, up into the trees and some took to circling above us. They are truly unattractive and large but totally necessary for the environment.

 Crossed back to 10 so we could go to St Francisville and Grandmother's Buttons--stop one of my favorite jewelers. This is a familiar route we've followed many times before. Through the beautiful antebellum towns of Clinton with its beautiful old ( 1840) courthouse, one of the largest and oldest still in use in Louisiana, and Jackson, the home of Centenary Military Academy which we visited several years ago--a military academy whose cadets left to fight for the Confederacy-- the Inn which has a pillar made from a beam of the old academy and the Town Hall with its candy kiss roof.  We drove by Locust Grove where a young newly wed Jefferson Davis left his new bride in her grave after becoming ill at a cousins house while on their honeymoon and past Rosedown Plantation where James Audubon served as a tutor and where Gus the Turkey strutted up to greet guests when we visited.  And then we were in St Francisville, one of my favorite towns--the cafe, where we eat breakfast and I buy Mayhew jelly, the Magnolia Cafe where we've eaten many a thick sandwich for lunch, the diner where Bill and the owner compare their conservative viewpoints, the historic district with its beautiful old homes. But this time we were to breeze in and breeze out again. We stopped at Grandmother's where they repaired the link I'd broken on a bracelet I bought there about four years ago. Of course, I had to pick up a few things. ( When I cleaned out my purse this afternoon I found last year's receipt--I spent much less this year--LOL )

I hated to leave but it was too early to stop for the day and except to just linger we had no real reason to stop so off we went to take the new bridge--two years old now--that replaced the little ferry we loved--across the Mississippi and into the West. From New Roads we followed 10 that had now combined with 1 into Morganza. At the railroad tracks we waved goodbye to 10 ( the road we have always taken East or West in this neck of the woods ) and continued along Rte 1 and territory new to us.

The Morganza is one of the spillways they opened during those Spring floods several years ago--the fields around here were allowed to flood in order to protect New Orleans and other towns south along the Great River. As we went over the control structure, led by a lead car, we could see through the slotted sides next to Bill that a great deal of silt was deposited beneath it and many large pieces of equipment were clearing it--in preparation for this Spring rush?  We saw a tree with an eagle's nest in which we could see the white head of a bald eagle....unfortunately, it is really tough to focus from a moving car which cannot stop along the way--both because our convoy just kept moving but also because there are signs every ten feet or so telling you no parking!  Think they mean it. 

Lots of open fields in some places; rows of bare trees in others. Crossed the Atchafalaya--a truly mighty Louisiana river with high levees every bit as impressive as those along the Mississippi. Continued through similar territory and kept on 1 through Alexandria--surprised at how well marked it was and how it literally skirted the main heart of the City, making its crossing quite easy.

We continued to follow 1 as it followed I 49 so closely that it looked like an additional 2 lanes. It was nice to run along looking at the traffic as we cruised a road almost as good with no traffic at all. At Boyce, just outside Alexandria there was a La1 detour that took us onto the Interstate. The main drag in Boyce gave no indication of why but from the highway we saw the very large gap where a bridge used to be. Only movie stars like Clint Eastwood can drive a car so well that they jump these gaps. So we agreed, the detour was in order. We did, however, return to 1 asap. We soon found that we were following the Cane River Heritage Trail--which meant nothing at all though we did cross the Cane several times--a la the White and its branches in Vermont. Along about Chopin and all the way to Derry we saw signs of a very large fire--had all the look of forest and at times we seemed to be headed into it, but then the road took a turn away and it was off to the West and soon passed. Looking at the map it seemed to have been in the Kisatachie National Forest. No one seemed alarmed at all--no rushing cars or sirens so I imagine it was a controlled burn.

As we passed a very old, very large pecan grove we could see workers cutting trees and limbs, gathering the brush into heaps and burning them--as cows roamed among the trees grazing!  LOL At Cypress we took a short back road and was immediately halted by a crossing train. This was the closest 1 and I 49 came together and since the directions to our motel originated at an Interstate exit it appeared logical to get on.  We were 10 miles from the exit--very good planning. As we approached the Quality Inn all the restaurants were of the fast food variety. When we checked in Casey said all the real restaurants were 15 minutes away downtown.  We opted for Domino's pizza ( yuk) and Abita amber( Yum)

While we waited I did some web searches about the two plantations that make up the Cane River National Heritage area and other historic sites around here and there are many. I could tell Bill was less that enthusiastic, which is why I hate starting through La--he never wants to explore--afraid we'll run out of money and not be able to do what he wants in Arizona and New Mexico. When we come back this way he is much more agreeable. BUT, I, as usual , came up with a compromise and since he loves Country music--more than I do--he agreed. There is a museum of Louisiana Country Music in Marthasville which is on the way to Texas. I also go to choose a scenic route on the La side before we cross the Sabine into Texas and head for Palestine. He also agreed that we will plan to return to this area of Louisiana and spend a few days touring it.

So we ate, had a beer and the sun went down in a spectacular sunset. And we are settled in to Knack-o-dish for the night. See you in Texas partners. Good night for now KandB

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When We Get Going, We Get Going!

Tuesday February 26, 2013 Comfort Inn Room 323 Amite,Louisiana

Despite tornado warnings until 10 pm last night and flash flood warnings until early morning in the area of the Panhandle in which we were staying and the swath of country all the way over to New Orleans, I woke at 4:40 am to breaking up clouds and a full moon and no wind.  When I got up for the day at 7:30 the sun was shining, the clouds had all dissipated and the wind had picked up a bit. Since the forecast also called for very choppy seas we decided to risk flooding rather than rough water and went north and around Mobile instead of South and across Mobile Bay to Biloxi. I love Biloxi but we've been there several times so the new route would be a new route.

On the road by 8:30 with almost cloudless, sunny skies and 59 degrees. The temperature never went below 57 nor above 60 but as usual the sun kept us plenty warm enough. We left the Panhandle via Fl rte 4 an old road with many causeways over normal swampland that was totally inundated with water resulting from the almost three days of rain that has pelted this whole area--all the way to Louisiana, as you can see, was wet and flowing. Going to be awhile before anyone gets into their fields or gardens. Especially if more rain is on the way, although the reports seem to indicate dry weather for at least the next week.  At Century, Fl we turned North and entered Alabama. I wiggled us South, West, North and South again until we joined I 65 for only 15 miles. But what 15 miles--swamp, lake, rivers, bridges, flooding though not over the road, and more bridges. Got off at the Saraland-Citronelle exit and headed north on Al 41 toward Citronelle until we reached Al 63 which headed West and somewhat South. 63 is fun--very country road through little towns that almost don't exist but the whole road is named ( there are more populated places that are harder to find your way around!) : Chunchula-Georgetown Road connects those towns and the stretch between Georgetown and Wilmer is called Wilmer-Georgetown Road. Not terribly original but definitely reassuring to non-locals. Eventually, we reached 98 which we followed across the Escatawpa River into Mississippi. It was interesting that in Florida there was a cop with a guy pulled over right at the Alabama line; here at the east bank of the Escatawpa an Alabama sheriff had a guy pulled over just before the bridge. :(

On we went through more piney woods, some of them State forests, more flooded fields and a few nurseries with rows and rows of potted plants and shrubs. Our first stop in Mississippi was the parking lot of the Lucedale Donut shop. I wanted to get out my healthy lunch of saltines, cheddar chunk,olives and apple with a bottle of water. Also wanted to check whether there were Comfort Inns along route 26--a perfectly straight shot across Ms--or whether we'd have to go into La and if so how far and in which direction. Having decided we would stay in Amite City where we stayed last year from a whole different direction, Bill said he was getting a donut. I waited in the car--thank God--I would have bought a dozen of these yummy, sinful treats. Freshly baked, the lady fills them only when they are ordered. Bill got himself a cherry ( I love cherry ) and me a Bavarian chocolate ( I triple love chocolate!! ) Ohhhhhhh-forget that tasteless apple--LOL Healthy, smealthy.

We continued into town and picked up 26, crossed the Pearl River within two hours and voila!  Louisiana.  I just love Louisiana--it is probably my favorite Southern state---there is nothing I don't like EXCEPT the heat and humidity starting in April. Picked up La 10 to Bogalusa and on into La until we ran into a guy putting along at about 35 miles an hour on a motorcycle with a sidecar.

I chose an even more country road 1054 to cut over to 16 and let him meander his way leisurely into Amite while we got there and into our motel. The girl on the desk didn't have an upgrade for us so she said, but her boss heard us and that we'd been there before and he came out--gave us a welcome bag with snacks and water and upgraded us to a three room, two bed suite for the $80 charge. Nice young man. Also recommended La Carreta Mexican restaurant where we had three Dos Equis Beer each, Bill had the Mexican Dinner and I had La Bamba( a beef taco, a beef enchilada and a beef tamale) all for $34 including tip. It was delicious. Now we are back in the room and I'm missing NCIS since this is CST Sooooo, I'm going to run. Talk to you, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thence Came The Deluge

Monday February 25, 2013 Quality Inn Room 321 Crestview, Florida

Throughout the Oscar broadcast last night the winds blew, the rains, fell and lightening lit the skies accompanied by the sounds of the rousing game of bowling those dwarfs were enjoying above me. Went to bed after listening to the weather forecast, wondering whether I should get up and retrieve my flashlight, loving darkness as I do and fearing the loss of power. Don't know if we did lose power since I was out like a light the minute my head hit the pillow at 11:30.  Was awakened by the longest and loudest thunder I've heard in a very long time. Bill was already up, it being 7:30 and I thought he was downstairs having breakfast. As I lay there I heard some one's television and the broadcast was speaking of today's severe weather. Turned on my TV to see if I could hear it more clearly, a bit annoyed that I could hear the TV from another guest's room at this hour.  In a few minutes, my bedroom door was slowly and quietly closed and I realized that Bill was in the living room listening to the Weather Channel!  LOL

Got up to join him and as I looked out the window I could see the palm trees blowing, fog in the distance and the surface of the pool as well as the puddles in the parking lot and the flooded field next to us were all dimpled with the impact of heavy falling rain. The prediction of continued rain and flooding with possible tornadoes West of us impelled me to urge our staying put right here. We really don't want to do it--but Mobile Bay is out and the back roads to Hattiesburg are desolate and run through big pines. Hydroplaning or getting hit by falling trees or worse did not appeal to us. So, though the laundry really isn't that heavy and it is a little early to pay bills we decided that we would request our $66 suite for another night. We both have books with us and our own TV's. I can set up future payments for the bills and might as well get what dirty clothes we have cleaned up. The storm supposedly is moving eastward and we should have clear sailing tomorrow. At least for the time being--another storm seems to be developing in the west.  This has been the worst weather trip we've ever had in the five or six years we've been doing this.  The snow storms are incredible and farther south than usual when we travel limiting our path but this rain and possible tornado weather is limiting, too. Hope we GET to Arizona before the money runs out--LOL  Wonder if we'll be able to do the four corners after all. Oh, well, there is always Yuma! 

Will keep you posted and if anything exciting happens today will update this missive. Mundane pictures will arrive tonight--LOL  In the meantime, Seth McFarland wasn't as awful as I expected and I'm glad Argo won even if they didn't see fit to nominate Ben Affleck for director.  Funny, they all spout the importance of the director but the director of the best movie both here and at the BAFTAs is not nominated here though he won the honor in Britain.  Ah, well, he said he doesn't hold grudges--nice boy, that Ben!  Later, KandB

4:09 PM  Still in Rm 321 in Crestview Fl

Lazy day--read two issues of USAToday--so caught up on all the exciting news of the day--except I still don't know who the football player is that is going to dance on DWTS this season!! LOL

Dozed off in an easy chair around 11 ish. Bill finished his book. I made lunch of saltines, American cheese, Plumrose ham, water and one of the best tasting apples I've had in a long time. Balanced the check book and set up bill payments. Updated our account book. The sun came out strong and beautiful for about an hour. At first we second guessed ourselves but since the wind was still quite heavy we decided we chose correctly to stay. By 2 it had clouded over again but the wind has died down and the parking lot is dry. The weather forecast looks good for the next few days. We've decided not to do Mobile Bay but rather to cut somewhat north through a portion of Alabama and Mississippi with which we are unfamiliar. We should be in eastern Louisiana tomorrow night if all goes well --no flooding or other issues along the way.

Looked up my missives from last year when we were in the same area--it was rainy then also--though more drizzle and fog. It was also much hotter and VERY humid.  So I guess it isn't much different this year. Memory is so strange--

 Was going to have sardines tonight with a beer but decided I want another of those sinful double cheeseburgers ---back to healthy eating on the road--LOL  A few domestic pix and views from the window to follow. Nightie night, roadies  KandB

Sunday, February 24, 2013

HaChaCha--We're in Florida

Sunday February 24, 2013 7:20 pm Room 321 Quality Inn Crestview, Florida

A very tiring day for some reason and in some ways disappointing so far as sights are concerned. We headed out of Perry at about 930 and decided to hop on the Interstate to get south a bit faster. We stayed on I75 for about fifty miles to Ashburn where we picked up route 112 and then 97 to Bainbridge. The weather was perfect, sunny, highs in the 60's and few clouds in the sky. Being Sunday in the South there was little traffic anywhere since each and every one of the two or three Baptist churches in any given little town was packed. Or at least the lots were. Bill always jokes on these back roads after he's seen two houses, okay, the Church has to be around here somewhere and it usually is!  LOL

This part of Georgia, the South to Southwest area, is filled with pecan orchards. The older trees are woolly with resurrection fern and, with all the recent rain, it is particularly green and thick. The upper branches of the trees are festooned with great kissing balls of mistletoe. Both of these make the trees much more striking than the young whippersnappers in the newer orchards. There are also large open fields planted with cover crops including mustard --mostly to replenish the soil although in the case of peanut fields, of which there are many---Sylvester, Ga through which we passed is the home of Peter Pan Peanut Butter--that is not necessary. We passed several large peanut processing plants owned by Golden Peanut Co. As we neared Bainbridge we also saw many fields in which corn is planted and at least one plant extolling Georgia Sweet Corn. Bill says that all the early corn at PC comes from Bainbridge. He loved it when customers would ask if it was local corn in May and June. LOL

Being on a back road there was no fanfare upon our entry into Florida at Chattahoochee. The only indication was the huge sign outside a building declaring it to be the Florida State Hospital. I, of course, knew we had left Ga in our dust, since the map lay across my lap. Within a few minutes of travelling I 10--again to make a bit of time before heading south to the cost and the beaches of the Panhandle---we entered Central Time Zone. Ah, an hour gained.

Once more we left the Interstate to ride a back road down to 98 which, according to the map, hugs the Gulf shore. Forget it--the water is at least a block south or at most four blocks south. The beaches are totally out of sight unless you wanted to go down a side street to see it and then you could not drive beside it. I was so disappointed, having heard that the beaches of white sand are so beautiful and having not been able to see them last year because of torrential rain. I will say that there do not seem to be the condo upon condo buildings that one finds on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. When we arrived at Destin, having not seen a single beach we decided to head back up north to our reserved room in Crestview. Happily, I was too cheap to pay a toll to go across the mid-bay bridge so we wound up seeing the Emerald Grande, which is a gorgeously flamboyant old hotel and also the white dunes of Ft Walton Beach. So all was not lost.

Proceeded up 85 with no major sites unless you count the field on Eglin AFB with a huge collection of various flying machines. Bill was too tired to stop and I was ready to get " home".  Checked in and asked for an upgrade---a beautiful suite. Bill is in the living room watching TV while I type. He went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant--didn't appeal to me--so he brought me a double bacon cheeseburger from Wendy's. I don't know the last time I had one--it has been years--and it was deliciously fattening and cholesterol building--washed down with a wild cherry pepsi--gourmet feeds, No??

So, Daytona is over--we were down here last year--in New Smyrna where we could see the lights of Daytona making a glow in the night sky. Danica didn't do too badly for her first time--8th. More important to me--the Oscars are on tonight. I really prefer the BAFTAs and did watch them earlier in January but I'd like to see how the awards compare. The British are much more formal and the host is always Frye--who is witty without being slapstick ---I'm not looking forward to McFarland this year.  Who knows if I'll make it through the show.  Tired, tired, tired.  Tomorrow we'll bid Florida goodbye. I think we'll take the Interstate and then head to the Mobile Bay Ferry, which we really enjoyed last year. It the weather is too foul we may just have to brave getting around Mobile and on to Biloxi by land. Will fill you in tomorrow night--so long for now, roadies. KandB

Georgia Is A Big State (and some folks chat forever!)

Saturday February 23 Quality Inn Room 114 Perry, Georgia

At long last we are finally far enough South and out of poor weather to do what we love best--travel back roads and see small towns with their buildings in various styles and , in some cases, in various stages of decrepitude.  Most of the day was spent in drizzly piney woods and it was chilly---never much above 45.

When we arrived in the town of Eatonton at about 1130 ish we saw a sign for the Brer Rabbit Museum. I said to Bill, oh, let's stop. I loved Joel Chandler Harris' stories and Song of the South. JCH must have been born here. ( We'd passed roads that were labeled various tour routes--one having been a famous author tour--since the weather was so poor we didn't explore any of them. Now, I figured JCH must have been one of the famous authors.) A few miles later there was Brer Rabbit himself almost hopping across the road in front of us so we pulled in. Inside the small wooden building was a gray haired black lady talking to another couple with very strong Southern drawls. They were discussing various implements and tools in the display--this museum being a little eclectic--a corn husk mop, a curry comb, a wooden rake. Interestingly, our guide knew less about the things than did Bill and the other fellow --the couple being of more or less the same vintage as we. Miz Georgia regaled us with stories of her growing up--in the same house on the same street all her life--LOL. Also the fact that she had uncles and cousins and grandfathers and a father named George but alas, though she was supposed to be a boy and be named George also, things turned out differently and so she is named Georgia after her antecedents and not the State of her residence. Well, I think you can see that Miz Georgia was a talker and a pure delight. She called her Dad a trip--she is quite a rig herself. An hour and a half and much history--about JCH, about the Turner family on whose plantation he was hired as an apprentice typesetter for The Countryman--the first newspaper of the area published by a guy named Turner--more about Miz Georgia and her family and their history following the end of slavery and even some about Putnam County in which we were--the dairy center of Georgia, dontcha know--the boll weevil having destroyed the cotton industry which HAD been the source of the County's prosperity---later we were on our way. Heads spinning but laughing at how terrific a lady she is but how a long time with her would be a challenge. She is 2 years older than I and by the time we parted we were old friends and hugged and kissed after she admonished me for now wearing a jacket since this is pneumonia weather!

Down the road apiece we came upon Andalusia--the home of Flannery O'Connor. We'd passed this way last year and hadn't had time to visit and having forgotten this was its location and having spent so much time at the rabbit's , we didn't have time this year either. I guess that famous author tour also includes her.

Despite the weather and weaving from one road to another my navigational skills stood up until we hit Jeffersonville, where every possible route number had a sign except the one I wanted. We took what seemed the logical path only to find that after ascending into incredibly foggy piney woods we had backtracked eastward 11 miles. So we returned to Jeffersonville and tried another road but within minutes I just didn't feel right about its direction. I looked once more at my map and found that our path should cross I 10 so we returned to Jeffersonville and took the road to the Interstate---eureka, we cried, we are on the right path at last. We continued through the foggy and sodden land--this area got 3 inches of rain in a very short time just before our arrival and the water table is so high it cannot absorb any more so the rain stands in pools everywhere. The excess was even in the air as fog. An eerie gray world of appearing and disappearing trees and houses and cars. We pulled into Perry and for the first time were unable to get an upgrade--the rodeo! and some other event were in town. We checked in and then went to Applebee's for dinner.

As I watched the waitress at work, I said to Bill I think she was here two years ago when we were. Indeed, she said we looked familiar for some reason, too. I asked if she had been there 2 years ago and if she had just had a little girl and she said yes--she turned 2 a week ago and I'm pregnant again, due in August. Her name is Colleen and she is just a lovely young woman. We also met Walter, a North Carolinian with an accent so thick, at times I could not understand him. He sells and upgrades some kind of equipment used in peanut processing plants.

Went back to our ordinary but quite comfortable warm room and watched TV for a bit and then retired --looking forward to the promised sun of tomorrow and arrival in Florida.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Georgia Drizzle,Ty Cobb and My "Kid"

February 22, 2013  Quality Inn Room 201 Commerce,Georgia

Wonderful to just take a day to meander. No Interstates, no traffic, no set direction. Slept in --well, at least I did until 8--Bill as usual awake at 430 and up by 6....leisurely breakfast and then gave the desk clerk one of the rewards cards for 1000 points that Choice Priveleges provides for me to give to staff that are particularly wonderful. This young woman certainly has been a joy. Not that we've seen much of her nor spoken with her--we aren't that type of guest--but she gave us the upgrade instantly, extended the stay quickly at the same lower rate, had the presence of mind to extend the keys so that we wouldn't have to reprogram them today, gave us info on local attractions clearly and got us directions to the restaurants we wished to use and printed out the directions this morning to Ty Cobb's museum. One would think that this type of service would be de riguer but, unfortunately, it is not or at least it is not always provided with such graciousness and warmth. Such treatment makes a guest feel special and I appreciate that.

Armed with directions and having spoken to the lady at the museum ( Martha ) to make sure it was open we headed out in haze and drizzle to find out where Ty Cobb grew up and how his hometown was presenting him to the world. My father was born in 1903 and so was a kid growing up when Ty was making waves in the world of baseball. One of my favorite pictures of Dad is in his knickers and cleats with a Ty Cobb type baseball cap and a bat over his shoulder. When I was growing up and when Cobb died in 1961 Dad always said the Georgia Peach was a nasty, vicious man who may have been a great baseball player but wasn't much of a guy. This was said with disgust and an air of dismissal--prowess in the game didn't erase the smallness of the man for Dad. Not being a lover of stats Cobb's achievements don't impress me as much as they probably should. Still I wanted to learn more and perhaps find out that he wasn't as bad as Dad said. Well, so far as the museum is concerned --Ty's anger, nastiness with his cleats, brawls and inability to get along with his team-mates is not ignored but it is certainly glossed over in favor of praise for all his awards--including the fact that he was the first to be entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I hoped to find a bit more about the man and his private life rather than just the public superman. There was a bit but not much. His father married his mother when she was 12. She gave birth to Ty when she was 15 and then had two more kids. In the video one sentence : In 1920 two events changed his life--his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers and his Dad was accidently shot in his own home.

Accidently shot in his own home!!!! He was climbing into his bedroom window and was blown away by two shotgun blasts DELIVERED BY HIS WIFE!!! Rumor has it --he was trying to catch her with a lover---she claimed that she thought he was an intruder. She was charged with murder and exonerated. That's it. None of this is even mentioned, except in very small print around the corner. The loss of his father who didn't approve of his baseball aspirations and the hazing veteran players subjected him to are given as the explanation for his anger and combativeness. He was devastated by the loss of his father , helped his mother through her legal problems but there is no mention of what their relationship was --either before or after the tragedy. Odd.

In passing it is mentioned that he married, had five children, lost two sons at early ages but not what those ages were. After taking the visitor to 1928 and Cobb's retirement, the remainder of the museum talks of his wealth --accrued through wise investments in GM and Coca Cola among other things. He used this wealth to build the first modern hospital in Royston and indeed one must go through the hospital waiting room to access the museum. He also helped support fellow players who, for whatever reason, were down on their luck after retiring. At his death he left 1/4 of his estate , valued at 11+ million dollars===about 98.1 million today, to establish an educational fund that still exists. It provides scholarships to Georgia students to be used in any college. There are two plaques listing the colleges to which these impoverished students have gone--from the most prestigious Ivy to the smallest State school. Impressive.

Still, I left feeling as though I knew more about him than I'd known before but feeling disappointed because I didn't know more about the MAN!  So, I bought a couple of books. In the preface to the new edition of his first biography on which he collaborated there was more and none of it was good. He was a miserable, nasty, win at all costs young man and a miserable, lonely, embittered old man --divorced twice, alienated from his children and his former teammates--alone. I think Dad was right--his baseball stature doesn't make up for it.

We spent a great deal of time chatting with Martha, about Vt, about gardening, about the weather in Ga and in Vt, about peanuts, about the rumors surrounding the scandal, and about education. She was a true joy. She told us where Cobb was buried and about a covered bridge that locals claim was used in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. Cobb's childhood home is gone and his birthplace in Homer, too. So off we went to the mausoleum that he had built for the Cobb family and down a decrepit muddy road to the Bridge.

Drove back in the drizzle to Commerce and Walmart to pick up a few things---detergent, fabric softener AND a new laundry bag. We have gremlins in the house and they have happily made away with our blue mesh bag, our canvas bag and at least two white mesh ones--so we parted with another buck and picked up a new white mesh. I hope they are having a grand time with the others but this one is going into the empty suitcase when I unpack in March.  Where I thought the others had gone.

As we pulled into the Walmart lot the phone rang and it was Betsy. Checking to see where we are and impressed that we'd covered so much territory and were in Georgia. You guys are moving fast--not really Bets but I guess we are a few miles away. Nothing much new at home--other than snow and more snow coming. Also Misty is crying more than usual but Bets is giving her lots of loving and she is sleeping with Bets in our bed. Unlike Bill, however, Bets does not get up with Misty at 430--as a matter of fact she throws her into the hall and closes the door--LOL

Bill also stopped at the first of many banks to pick up his first batch of nickels. Came back to the room, ate a small lunch and while Bill sorted his nickels I relaxed in the whirlpool with Ty. Around 430, Sonia Paul Davis, one of my students in Chelsea ( I left in "86 to have Bets and Sonia graduated in "87) called to say she was home and ready to meet us at Ruby Tuesday's. So we got ourselves together, drove across the highway and pulled into the parking lot at exactly the same time. Bill did not know Sonia and neither of us had met her husband, Andrew, whom she met and married while they were both in the Army. After they left the service they came to Georgia, which is Andrew's home and have two daughters --23 and 21. Andrew is a sweetheart--funny, pleasant and a good sport--tolerating the initial flurry of Chelsea catch up. Sonia and I and Bill to some extent--got through that pretty fast and the remainder of the evening covered a myriad of topics with much laughter and interest. When I said we'd been to Cobb's place, Andrew said --he was a nasty man--and we laughed --for indeed he was.

Three hours later, it was time to call it an evening. We parted with hugs, smiles, promises to see each other again soon and agreement that it had been a really fun night. I love seeing my " kids" , even if many years have gone by. It is particularly wonderful when they have had success and happiness.

Now that a day well spent has come to a close, it is time to catch Blue Bloods and think about tomorrow and our movement toward Florida. Until we meet again K and B

BTW, hope you didn't get too chilled walking with us down to the covered bridge--lol

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blue Skies, 64degrees, Willows in Bloom----Georgia!

Thursday February 21, 2013  Quality Inn Room 201  Commerce, Georgia

As promised in yesterday's note I have researched Sideling Hill Gap and it is indeed a man made excavation, though, as I also surmised this mountain crossing was used before the excavation. This link will give geologic as well as historic info about this wonderful cut through the folded mountains that make up the Appalachians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sideling_Hill

I also had mentioned that we were trying to remember the situation that existed and caused the survey that resulted in the Mason-Dixon line. The confused claims in the 1700's to lands in Pa and Md resulted in the work and the line did not have anything to do with the existence of slavery in those areas--though we remembered that was the case. Again, for the history buffs amongst you, here is an abbreviated description of the events. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason%E2%80%93Dixon_line

The other thing I forgot to mention yesterday was the toll house for the National Road or Turnpike that was built in 1811 in LaVale, Md where we stayed. We drove by it but forgot to go back and check it out before we left town. It appears to be a museum although it had the look of being closed for the season--oh, well, another time.

Today we got a later start than usual--getting on the road at 930. We had stayed right near the interchange of I 81 and I 77, which we immediately accessed in a southerly direction, after gassing up at $3.55 a gallon--the cheapest we've seen so far. In a very short time we arrived at Fancy Gap,Va--a very long,very curving run down a very steep hill. There were FOUR runaway truck roads. The hillside had rocks covered with icecaps extending icy fingers over the rock faces and dripping clear, cold melt water making everything glisten in the morning sun. Each curve gave a magnificent view of the hazy valley below but the car is so low that the guardrails obscured the pictures and there was no pullover overlook. At last our mobile greenhouse was spilled out onto the valley floor with its 44 degrees ( we'd left the top at 33 degrees ) and trees whose buds are swollen and ready to burst open. The Blue Ridge were now to our West!!  Welcome to North Carolina!

We continued on to the welcome center to stretch our legs and get out the lunch things so that they'd be accessible when needed. People were grinning and taking off jackets and the spirit of Spring just seemed to awaken in us all.  I was amazed to see signs of kudzu here--don't remember it this far north in the past. It doesn't seem as overwhelming as in Georgia and Mississippi and there are swaths where it has obviously been cut and removed. Don't know if the State is attempting to keep it under control--it would be easier here, I'd imagine , with a somewhat cold winter to help keep it in check. It is such a horror in other places--to think it was introduced deliberately as a ground cover--it surely does its job--ground and whatever gets in its way.

I also noticed the large numbers of rhododendron shrubs in the underbrush with their large, glossy, rubbery leaves. We've never seen them in bloom and I wonder if their blossoms are as showy as their foliage. There are many varieties, of course,and the showiness of blooms varies--don't know what these do. It was interesting to notice that as the elevation changed--as we descended--that the number of shrubs diminished until they no longer were part of the flora. I'd never really thought about them being at higher elevations. We also commented on the large number of oaks with their leaves that they rarely drop. Residual trait from their semi-tropical origins. Bill says there are over 50 species of oak in the US. All are Quercus but some are rubra, some alba, some pinny--no, no--only kidding--don't know the species name of pin oak--LOL  Also need to learn about 47 more trees--don't think I'll bother.  It is amazing. We've been this way or near it before and yet we always find new things to notice and discuss.  Soon, we were at Statesville, NC and we started the dog leg I'd mapped out to avoid Charlotte.

It is so funny. Bill called Paul, our friend in Missouri, last night to tell him that we were altering our route to avoid Q and that we'd most likely see him in a month on our way back home. Paul said the media was surely building up the storm but that they weren't worried, they had their farm equipment, chains for the truck and a generator. He said he didn't blame us and then told Bill how much he admired our flexibility. He said friends of his when they go on vacation have every half hour planned and mapped out. Bill says our motto ( taken from his friend, Jason ) is adapt and overcome!! That's us!! LOL  Don't know if that is one of Jason's Marine mottoes from his time in Iraq but it surely is a good motto and one we travel by. Certainly it is our approach when encountering cities in our path.

So at Statesville we took I 40 West --I was a bit unsure of this choice since 40 is a major E-W road and can be horribly congested with trucks but we were only taking it for a short hop and it turned out to be fine. At Hickory we picked up 321 South to Gastonia, where it terminated on I85 and we sailed on into South Carolina. In short order we arrived at Gaffney and our peach. We'd stayed at the Quality Inn here on our first trip and ate at Fatz Cafe where the wait staff --all adorable young 20 somethings--piled into our booth next to Bill for a picture. The manager had coffee with us and it was just a terrific experience. We were on our way home and it was cold, blustery and raw. We visited King's Mtn and Cow Pens on that trip--two Revolutionary War battle sites. About six months later some guy went bonzo in Gaffney and killed several people. But today the sun was shining and there wasn't much wind--the temperature had climbed to the 50's and we were eating our cheese and trisquits and pepperoni and olives and blood orange and drinking water as we drove by and reminisced.

We passed a huge array of solar panels that looked like a huge lake in the sunshine. A first, we've seen a couple of panels but never a multi-pasture covering of them. They have a certain beauty but I still prefer the pinwheels. Every so often we would come across stands of willows in full leaf--most likely in wet spots. We enjoyed the landscape trees chosen by South Carolina at the exit and entrance ramps--they have interesting skeletons and look attractive and interesting even in their winter nakedness.

After lunch and having passed Greenville I called ahead for reservation in Commerce Georgia. The fellow gave me my membership number back as Kilo-Foxtrot-Poppa. I had to laugh--I NEVER used the right words in customs and some of the guys would laugh but others got really pissed at me. Kangaroo works--Fashionable--Potatoes. What's wrong with that?  LOL  I haven't heard this alpha in a long time--bet the guy was military at some time. Just funny.  At last we crossed the Tugaloo and Georgia was more than on my mind. The temperature hit 60 and Bill turned on the A/C!!

I turned on Gladys Knight and the Pips--Midnight Train to Georgia!  And about five more Georgia songs. We passed many cops out in force in the Carolinas--they seemed to have pulled over trucks mostly but they were everywhere. For the twenty or so miles to Commerce we saw none. Pulled into the Quality Inn where our King room was $46. The reservation clerk said the suites were $86--said no I'll take the King. Soon as we arrived I asked for an upgrade and here we are in a suite for $46+.  Nice to be an Elite--just love this program.

Called Sonja, my former student from Chelsea. We decided to go to dinner tomorrow night. On days we drive we like to eat and get back to the room and collapse. Sonja was getting out at 430 but we decided we need a down day so we're staying tomorrow night, too. She's getting her hair done tomorrow but lives only 15 minutes away so we're going to meet at Ruby Tuesdays tomorrow. It is better--she's off Sat --and though we won't stay out really late--at least there is no rush or pressure. Cannot wait. I haven't seen her for 27 years almost to the day. It's Feb vacation now and that's when I left Chelsea to have Bets.

After those plans were settled we headed out to Outback. We were 15 minutes early so perused the antiques at the mall next door. I said that buggy could be my next car but after looking at the price and the lousy paint job had second thoughts. Met a long distance truck driver who also decided not to go out to Nebraska and is instead picking up a load in Atlanta on Sat and heading to Santa Monica on I 20 all the way. He grew up in New Orleans so we had lots to talk about --Jazz Fest, Quarter Fest, the cemeteries, the streetcars and ghosts, goblins and beliefs. A fun, fun meal. He said maybe he'll see us again--we'd enjoy it but I imagine it is like so many other ships we've passed in the night on our trips. Memories.

And so another day, this one tiring because traffic was heavier than usual, but so wonderful so far as weather is concerned. The news seems to indicate that Missouri didn't get hit as hard as predicted--I'm glad for Paul and his family--but it is better to err than to run into trouble. We don't need to go there in snow so why do it. We have snow tires with studs but still--the stress isn't worth it and we have plenty of time to go on the way home.

It is now time to relax, get ready for Big Bang, Person of Interest and Elementary, as we look over the local area for historic sites to explore tomorrow. Will fill you in next time. Night all--get some rest --we may walk a bit tomorrow.  KandB

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trying To Find Our Way Around This Storm!!!

Wednesday Feb 20, 2013  8am still in Lavale Md

Well, Q has us running in circles--went farther south yesterday than planned and then turned west--planning to cross Ky. Snowing this am in Md so we are heading back east to the coast and farther south before heading westward again. Now they are talking tornadoes. So far, the worst Feb we've had in five trips---well, except for the year we went through Canada and the UP to Montana. That was awful all the way to Nevada--I'll keep that trip in mind today--it can't be any worse.

Comfort Inn  Room 220 Wytheville, Va

Not much to say about today's trip. As I said this morning, we returned to Hagerstown, Md and picked up I81 south. It is a road we've traveled many, many times in both directions--headed home in April--headed out in February. Lots of snow on the car as we left LaVale--well, an inch anyway. Bill makes me laugh--my Dad insisted that all snow be swept off the car before embarking on the road. The roof so the snow wouldn't come down on the back window and obscure the view, off the hood so it wouldn't blow up onto the windshield as you drove and off the bumpers and trunk so as not to blow into the windshield of someone traveling behind. Bill uses the wipers and his hand to take snow off his window and the passenger window.  Drives me batty and makes me feel claustrophobic. So when we stopped for gas before leaving town I got out and at least wiped my side of the windshield off. While he was pumping gas a guy asked where we were from--Bill always says White River--the guy said oh, White River Junction!  I lived in Brattleboro and in Newport for 8 years. He had long curly hair in a pony tail--I looked but he wasn't wearing Birkenstocks with heavy wool socks, though I thought he might. LOL

Off we headed under leaden skies spitting snow and 25 degrees. I was sure that Polish Mountain and Sideling Hill would be blizzard-like but in actuality there was snow but it was fine and cold so it didn't stick but blew off the road like dust. The gap at Sideling Hill isn't as noticeable coming from the West--all the folded mountains obscure it til one is almost there. But, the road climbing to it is impressive looking from a distance. Bill and I got talking about the gap and decided it was man-made or certainly is Nature enhanced my man. The National Turnpike--route 144, I think, runs alongside I68 so this is definitely a historic crossing in the mountains. Some time I'd like to stop in Hancock and see the exhibit on Sideling. In the meantime, I'm going to google it and may have a link for you tomorrow. We also got talking about the Mason-Dixon Line and how weird the thin line of Md running along north of WV is . I laughed and said maybe there is a museum about the Line somewhere. Bill said he sure hopes so--they drilled the history of it into us enough in middle and high school. We wonder if it is even mentioned in history classes now.  Need to research it, too, since the details escape us now--middle school having been a few years back--LOL

 In about an hour we were back in Hagerstown and headed south on 81.  Virginia is a long State and also wide but by 3:30 we were almost to North Carolina.

As we approached the Blue Ridge and Skyline Drive, which we did not take, the clouds finally parted and blue sky appeared. About 150 miles north of Roanoke the grass was incredibly green and that shot is particularly for my friend, Joyce, who said she would be happy when we saw that. One last clump of snow hung on all that way--pieces had been spitting up out of the wiper bay on and off. When we stopped around 1230 at a rest area south of Roanoke the temps had reached 45 and all snow was gone.

We played our CD's once more and are getting to know the words to several of the songs. I'm particularly fond of Doug Kershaw's song about how it snows in Colorado--there's a verse--keep your eyes on the road, Billy, remember you're carrying a precious load. He also sings about how he is looking everywhere else to keep his mind off the road. It is perfect for days when we have conditions like yesterday.

We got out the cooler once more at the rest area and again ate cheese and crackers and pepperoni and shared a Gus' lemon soda. A couple of pieces of Australian strawberry licorice and we were set until dinner. Most of the day, we gloried in the sun and the warmth of the car. It reminded me of ice fishing in a Plexiglas shanty on Lake Champlain with the St Francis'--it reminded Bill of working in a greenhouse in March. Both memories are wonderful and fully describe our contentment and our hopes for the remainder of the trip.

We did discuss our next leg and have decided to head into North Carolina, and on into South Carolina--cutting over into Georgia on roads that will help us avoid Athens and Atlanta. Then heading south into the Florida panhandle. I wanted to see the beautiful beaches last year but it rained the whole time. It looks as though that may be the case again this year but we're going to give it a shot. It is a different route than we've taken before and we really want that. It wasn't our plan to be in the South at this point--we were aiming for Missouri. But Q looks as though it is packing lots of snow all the way up into Nebraska and ice and sleet in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. So, flexible as we are, we'll catch Bill's friend on the way home rather than the way West. I may be able to catch up with one of my former students in Georgia this way--if only for coffee or dinner. This is surely the long way round and is taking us longer to get to Az and NM but weather wise, we think it is the safer, less stressful route. We shall see.

When we arrived at Wytheville we checked in and once more were able to be upgraded to a suite--no hot tub tonight but a nice three room space with windows opened to the lovely Southern breezes. Heaven!  We decided to eat in Judy's Homestyle Diner next door. Oh, my God, one of the worst meals I've ever had! We both ordered meatloaf--that's home cooking, right?  Mush with huge hunks of potato and onion all smothered in ketchup ( with the bottle of ketchup on the side, in case there wasn't enough on it already!). I had green beans--they were BLACK and obviously right out of a can--and tater tots, which they deep fried instead of oven browning. Bill had cole slaw, which he said was the best part of his meal, and fried okra.  We love eating in local places but sometimes Applebee's really is the better choice. At least, it didn't cost us a fortune--in that regard it was a local diner.

Always read the historical blurbs in the motel directory. The one on Wytheville is hysterical. I hope Mr Wythe SIGNED the Declaration of Independence and DIDN"T sing it. It must have been a traumatic hostage situation in the PO in 2009. Not sure I'd include that in a tourist publication--but I guess any claim to fame is better than none!

And so we come to the end of another day--the sun has set and it is time to wash my face and curl up with USA Today until something good comes on TV.  There are two here so we can watch different things tonight--Bill is watching something with Denzel Washington--I like him--so perhaps I'll watch it, too.

Have a great evening all--until tomorrow  KandB

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How Do We Get Around Winter Storm Q?????

Feb 18, 2013--Comfort Inn Rm 228 LaVale, Md

Slept like a log last night until 311 am when I woke up for a drink of water and then back to sleep until the mournful sound of a train whistle at 6:30 ish. I love the sound of trains and very much miss it. The sun was rising above the mountain opposite our room in Binghamton--- how in heaven's name did I put a "p" in that town's name?? Too many British programs, I'm thinking.

We gathered our few belongings, headed down to breakfast and were on the road by 8:30. While I was getting ready this morning the pilot was listening to the Weather Channel--not my favorite forecaster--I prefer local channels. Nevertheless, the pilot and navigator discussed the combined predictions over coffee and decided that the Carlisle, Pa route west through Indiana and Illinois would probably result in running smack dab into Q on its Eastward track. So, despite the fact that we could not avoid the Pa highlands after Scranton-Wilkes Barre corridor that we would continue South to Hagerstown and into Md where we would turn Westward. The hope, of course, to run below the worst of the storm and swing Northward again after Kentucky and up toward Corder, Mo.

So off we went, 32 degrees and already clouding up. We managed to follow the signs this time and not have to find our way back from the Rte 17 branch that the pilot took in error last year while the navigator chatted with her 89 yr old aunt. It seemed safe to do since this is a route we've taken over and over again. The navigator did not make the same assumption this year--so not only did we find the Binghamton motel with ease last night but we also departed Binghamton going in the right direction and to Scranton with not a hitch.

The Scranton-Wilkes Barre corridor is usually horrible--either snowy, or trafficy, or clogged by an accident. The gods were with us this year--no snow, it was before 10 am so the stores were not open yet nor was it rush hour and we passed through on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday or Sunday.  It was a breeze. If only the same could be said for the highlands to come. Never --Never--Never do we go across them without a blizzard and this year was no different. I put in our newly compiled CD of travel songs, I looked to the side of the car, providing there was not a huge drop off and amused myself with pictures of my feet and the temp gauge and reviewed the words to the Hail Mary multiple times--silent prayer, of course.

At last, we arrived at Harrisburg and a rest area. I put on my grippers and got into the ladies' room. As I was washing my hands an older lady--actually, I think we were of the same vintage--asked if I'd listened to the weather report. I told her not since earlier this morning but that the worst was most likely over and that now, at a lower elevation, we would probably encounter rain. She said she could handle rain and I said yes, that the past few miles had been a bit stressful.

Bill and I returned to the car and I looked up a motel in Md for the night. We decided on Cumberland. It was now around noon so we happily made a picnic of cheese, trisquits,pepperoni, a Swedish orange soda and some nuggets of dried pineapple. I called the motel and in the process missed a shot of a jack-knifed North bound semi and the larger than life Pittsburgh paint can. The rep from the motel company offered me a room for 105+--I demurred-he said well, that's a suite but I have a regular room for 84+--said that was fine.

The temperature rose as we progressed Southward and then Westward--finally reaching a high of 52 degrees. Skies cleared and clouded--in various stages. The surrounding countryside was sometimes totally devoid of snow or any evidence of winter and at other times icy and/ or snow covered.

As we traveled along I 68 in the distance we saw what is so often referred to as a Gap. It is easy to see where there are cuts between mountains, even in Vt--but in Md, Va, WV etc the word Gap is much more specific. One can see how the peoples in this area chose paths Westward or how the Armies of the North and the South chose marching grounds through these Appalachians and surrounding foothills. They are so distinct and so visible from great distances. In time, we passed through the Gap at Sidelong Mountain. Truly impressive.

Just as we approached Cumberland and our exit the skies opened up with torrential rain. So in one day we experienced every type of precipitation and huge temperature fluctuations in a fairly short time. When we checked in I asked if any upgrades were available and lo and behold we have that suite at regular room rates. It so pays to be a frequent customer. Nice.

Got our stuff into the room and went next door to Texas GrillHouse -- I had the delicious sirloin with salad, broccoli and cab--Bill had chili, a house salad and Coors light. Turns out we ate there two years ago on the way home and Bets called me that time and I took the phone outdoors to chat.

Upon returning to our room Bill checked the weather--don't think we are going to miss Q--even having tried an end run.  It looks as though northern AK and southern Mo are going to be hit by an ice storm. Oh, well, I have a book--we might have to wait it out somewhere. It is, after all, February. And last I knew we didn't have any deadlines to meet.

For now, I'm warm, full and TV is good tonight--NCIS and NCISLA and White Collar? or something. Also, that whirlpool tub is calling my name---so, buddies, catch you tomorrow. Take care--KandB

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Long and Winding Road Once More

Feb 18--Rm 406 Comfort Inn Binghampton, NY Hi Roadies, So glad you've decided to join us once more on our annual trek. Though the day's journey was exactly like the past five or is it six there were some differences. For one the day was magnificently sunny though cold--never getting above 34 or so. In most places, once we summited Killington, now known as the BIG K --God help us, there was little snow on the ground. There were some narrow creases amongst hills south and west of Saratoga where the sun don't shine, as it were, and snow lay thick among the trees. The sky was that clear cloudless cobalt blue that invites every jet pilot for miles around to get up there and make all kinds of chalk marks with their contrails. Three and four of them at a time flying alongside each other, at each other, at acute angles to each other and having the time of their lives--it must be beautiful up there on a day like today. I used to surmise they were out of Plattsburg or maybe Rome but now who knows--maybe Burlington. What other bases are around any more? Of course, at their speed they may be from much farther away than any of those places. At any rate, we in our little G-5 hit the ground running after the coolers were packed and the trunk loaded at 9:30 am. Arrived in Saratoga for the traditional cholesterol raising brunch at my sister's--bacon, eggs for Bill, chorizo, buttered Thomas', home fries, OJ and coffee. We caught up on all the important news: Matthew's demise in Downton, Pretorius' supposed accidental shooting of his girlfriend, first in the bedroom and than in the bathroom, and the suicide of the unknown country singer whose only claim to fame I can remember her alleged affair with Roger Clemens that started when she was a 15 yr old waitress. Good Lord, I've got to get a life. But we did talk other things, too, including trip, and family. By 2:15 we were back on the road--out through Ballston Spa, Amsterdam, Florida, Scotch Bush etc to I 88 and through the Lower Tier to the Susquehanna and finally Binghampton by 5. I never go out to eat when we arrive here--Barb's brunch is enough food for one day. I usually stay in while Bill goes out to Casey's for a couple of beers and some chili and a few scratch off tickets. If I get hungry I eat a piece of fruit and drink some water. It is a good TV night tonight so I'll get cozy and watch Bones, The Following--which I'm not sure I'm going to keep following though I like Kevin Bacon--and Castle. Then the news, to bed and up early tomorrow for the long, horrible haul through Pennsylvania. Hang in there if you are new to the trip--it does get better. As for my usual travel buddies --you know there is no way around this part--LOL Nightie night--see you tomorrow! KandB

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

When my sister adopted a pit bull I have to admit I was not looking forward to meeting him. I was leery and didn't think I'd ever be able to warm up to him. The first time I visited her I was hesitant around him although he greeted me like a big clown and beat me with his tail and tried to lick the nose off my face. I love dogs but her other dog, a lab-shepard mix,was my baby and she was getting on in years. Wasn't terribly sure poor Jake should have to deal with a young animal that probably was unpredictable and not likely to be tolerant of an older less strong dog. I was sure she would be bullied and perhaps even hurt by this member of such a vicious breed. Well, Damien didn't have a chance. Jake was the alpha dog and, though she was a bit arthritic, hard of hearing and had dimming eyesight, she kept him right in his proper young whipper snapper place with an occasional low growl when she'd had enough of his kibutzing. In general, though, her final year was one of renewed vigor and youth and she loved playing with him and napping with him in the sun. And he seemed to look out for her when they were in the yard--guiding her around obstacles and to a toy she seemed to have lost. It was then I fell in love with him and though I still miss her, as does my sister, he filled the void she left immediately with his cuddles, and kisses, and clowning and companionship. He NEVER barks, we cannot entice him to make a sound. He wants to sit in your lap, butts with is nose when you don't pet him and greets you at the door with a toy in his mouth, ready to play! So, I thought, she got the only wimp in the breed. Well, a year later, my nephew adopted a pit. This poor fellow had been in a shelter for over 2 yrs. His teeth were ground down from chewing on his cage. No one would adopt him--a pit bull--but the man who ran the shelter just could not put him down, he had such a wonderful personality and had such a beautiful face. Along came Charlie who adopted him and named him, Sunny. And Sunny he is. He and Damien play together all the time. Both love people, especially kids and love to romp in the park where they are a big hit with other strollers. Had I not known Damien and Sunny I would never believe the story of the rehabilitation of Michael Vick's dogs nor would I have believed what the abuse he and his friends inflicted on these gentle creatures did to them. The beginning of the book deals with the conditions, the business of dog fighting, the building of the case and the conviction and sentencing of the partners in that business. But the bulk of the story belongs to the dogs--Sweet Jasmine, Jonny Rotten, Leo, Little Red and the others. To the people who worked to save them --the foster families, the adoptive families, the rescue organizations. And in the end, the story comes full circle to where the dogs are now and what they have achieved. If you think about pits the way I did and the way many still do--that they are dangerous and unpredictable--read this book. A dog is a dog is a dog and though, like people, there may be some that are " bad " it is more often the result of nurture rather than nature. I always knew that but I let the bad rap they've gotten through ill-informed publicity make me forget it.