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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Travels through Missouri, into Kentucky and Ohio, New York and, Finally, Home!

Hello Fellow Vagabonds, Some of you have been wondering whether or not we made it back home in one piece and if we survived the Kill the Gringoes Disease. It is hard to believe that the last installment of this year's trip was posted on March 20 from Joplin Missouri! In some ways, having been home almost two weeks has made our trip seem more in the realm of dreams than reality. Yet, looking at our pictures brings most of the experience back into focus. We did, as planned spend the next day in Carthage, Mo. In our earliest trips we used to head West by way of St Louis and often stayed in either Springfield or Joplin and made a day trip to Carthage. It is a nice little town with a beautiful courthouse around which is a square of fun shops, one of which was operated by a fellow who taught fiber art classes at the local College. We haven't been back in probably four or five years and, since we were ambling our way home, we thought it might be fun to check out his shop once more. It has the delectable name of Odds and Things and we've loved browsing amongst the dusty stuff. Why we haven't learned that Monday has become almost universally the new 2nd day of the weekend, I cannot tell, but as luck would have it, " our shop" was closed. We did take the time to peruse the goods in another similar shop, the name of which escapes me now, which we have also prowled around in the past. There was a lot of Francoma Pottery and it amazed me that I could pick it out easily but not my red dish and, in actuality, no red pieces at all. ( I'm not having any luck on eBay, either!) Since my coughing spells were diminishing by this time, I was amazed to find that, while I wasn't light-headed exactly, the floors of the room seemed to have a similarity to the rolling decks of a boat at sea. I was weaker than I realized and we did not attempt any more shopping. As it was, it had been difficult to get going that morning and so it was closer to mid afternoon than I'd known. Bill picked up a few old license plates for one of his former students who now has a mechanic shop in town and does whatever work needs to be done on the two G's--3 and 5, which are the B's vehicles. Douglas Bristlecone is still taken care of by the Toyota dealers. We met a fellow who wants to get off the grid. He was very taken by a gas operated refrigerator and also an ice box in the store. He and Bill got talking about cutting blocks of ice and storing them in an ice house with sawdust for use in food preservation. He could not seem to grasp the connection between the sawdust and the ice and to be honest I kind of stopped listening after awhile. That is, after I told him to google the building of an ice house. I remember the ice man delivering ice in his heavy tongs to my Grandmother's apartment in the Bronx when I was a little girl. And we also had an icebox in the cabin on Carnegie Bay where we spent Dad's vacations in September when I was in grade school. My mother always called our refrigerators ice boxes and I did for years, too. I'd forgotten that until listening to this conversation. LOL Betsy wouldn't know what I was talking about if I called the fridge an icebox! As we As we parted from him a lady and her young daughter walked by--the lady was carrying a lb box of the most beautiful fresh strawberries--I asked where she got them--a local market --but we forgot to look for it after lunch at the Carthage Family Restaurant. I had no idea how hungry I was--I had a cup of homemade chicken noodle soup, followed by a pork chop with tator tots and coleslaw, two glasses of sweet tea AND a small bowl of delicious vanilla ice cream and a slice of homemade cherry pie!!!!! It was the BEST meal--so much better than Cobb's in Joplin. But, I realized that it was the first real meal I'd had since we left Bud and Gloria's in Belen. The whole time in Gallup I'd hardly eaten at all--mostly fresh fruit and microwave soup or horrible soup from Cracker Barrel, which I didn't finish. I ate at Cobb's but not much since, though home cooked, it wasn't a terrific cook doing it. In our past visits we'd gone to an Irish pub for lunch and had Guinness on tap with pub food. Don't even know if it is still there--since being ill, neither of us was drinking--not even a glass of wine. When taking four meds it just didn't seem prudent. As we headed down the street from the restaurant we passed a lovely old motel--stucco and painted white. It's signpost contained the exclamation--A Radio in Every Room! Will have to check that out more closely if we come this way again. The next day found us headed across Missouri to Poplar Bluff. It was a heavenly day of sunshine and an incredible East-West Road--four lanes with a sizeable median--Rte 60--and not a bit of traffic the whole way. It was amazing--such a wonderful highway--Interstate quality--and absolutely no one other than us using it for miles. We didn't want to go by way of St Louis, where snow was predicted and where traffic is heavy and we didn't want to go through the Ozarks as we'd done a couple of years ago because, while beautiful, the road is very twisting and narrow and Bill was still tiring easily. This route turned out to be perfect. I have no idea what the early flowering trees are in this area and I think there are several different species, but every house, every town park and Main street was landscaped with them--white flowered and beautiful. Where they existed in profusion the air was sweet with their scent. I think for all time this stretch of the trip will be remembered for them. That, and the fact that there was plenty of water everywhere--we'd followed a heavy two day rain storm -- and the end of daily running with the BNSF---which is one of the totems of the Midwest and Southwest for me. Speaking of that heavy rain--we usually return to Louisiana for a few days on our way home but there had been such incredible rain in Texas and Louisiana that the widespread flooding prevented our return this year. It is a true sign of how ill and tired we were--it really didn't matter to us that one of our favorite places had to be skipped. Eventually, we reached Dexter, Missouri, where we drove around looking for a restaurant that looked like it had more than catfish or fast food. We opted for the American Steakhouse. OMG, we had the buffet---no steak anywhere to be seen and local specialties, including ham hocks and beans, collard greens, soggy fried chicken, chicken fried steak and, of course, bisquits and gravy. I took a piece of chicken, some cole slaw and a bisquit--the chicken was awful, the cole slaw too vinegary and the bisquit dry and salty. The waitress came over and said isn't the food wonderful--I smiled with a mouthful of cole slaw and didn't respond. She said she gained 20 lbs when she first came to work there--WHAT did she find to eat that was palatable?? Think we'll skip Dexter in future! W had pushed on past Poplar Bluff to be closer to Kentucky and so we covered almost 300 miles. Pretty tiriing. But the reward was a wonderful full moon that cast its light into our bedroom window all night. The next day brought with it a " reward" of its own. I had remember Cairo from our visit a couple of years ago but I had managed to avoid one of the awful bridges on that trip--we had crosse the Ohio, I think, on a newer bridge that year. I can only plead illness for my poor navigation this time--talk about old, narrow, high, rusting bridges!!! And talk about no respite between them to speak of--even Bill, who isn't any fonder of heights than I but who usually handles them better, was not happy with these two! But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First there was the remainder of Missouri and some of its historical and agricultural sites to see. One of them was one of the largest grain stations we'd ever seen and Bill was right--the railroad tracks came right up to it. Then, since the agricultural fields were being worked it wasn't surprising to share the road with some of the machinery--and they grow them big out here!In the middle of nowhere a plot was cordoned off and a monument erected to memorialize a Sharecroppers' Strike in 1939. Looking around the empty fields with nary a building in site it was impossible to imagine a gathering of 1500 people camped out here. We continued along the top of a levee with spillways on either side until, behind the trees in front of us loomed the superstructure of the first bridge--nothing like time and distance over which to build apprehension. Then, of course, there are the rich agricultural fields well below the curving, rising approach to the ancient structure crossing the Mighty Mississippi! The tunnel like erector set cage rises as you pass through it until it reaches its apex and begins its descent to dry land. Even though one is still suspended at height above the deep River, there is still a sense that you are on your way to safety--UNTIL, you glance to the right and see ANOTHER of the same vintage at right angles to this one. You ask, with temerity, " are we crossing that one, too???" only to be told matter- of -factly " YES!" I begin to wonder if this 73 year old heart can take such intense stress over so long a period. I try to focus on the River we've just crossed and the lovely fields here on the Illinois side of the River before we make the right hand turn onto this next structure of torture as it crosses the Ohio. This is the familiar bridge--we approached it as that truck across the way is approaching it--it held us then, it will hold us again, RIGHT? God, how I HATE bridges. How did I ever grow up crossing the George Washington, the Brooklyn, The Manhattan, the Whitestone, The Tappan Zee???? I was in the back seat, that's how! To think I used to drive across bridges all my life and now I almost hyperventilate just approaching them. Well, I guess it is best to just enjoy the view of River traffic and not notice how narrow the bridge is and that trucks are coming at us from the other side. And then, shakily to note that within five minutes we have been in three states--Missouri, Illinois and are safely in Kentucky! Wycliffe is the home of some Mounds that always seem to be closed when we come through. I think it is what brings people here in the summer--that and the area's proximity to two of the major rivers of this country and while running alongside them it is easy to appreciate just how beautiful they are even on this cloudy, gray day. Once more we travel back roads and enjoy the sight of barns that Bill says are the typical Kentucky barn. There are more of the white flowered trees all along our route. We opt to follow a small gray road on the map that will take us across the Land Between the Lakes--it is an area that is actually between two more major waterways that have been dammed to form these " lakes"--the Cumberland and the Tennessee. The routes of these two are really interesting--they run almost parallel very close together and yet never meet. They flow around the City of Nashville and create islands of land between them all along their paths. Here, once more, we cross two ancient bridges, high above wide rivers. It is a day of bridges--two of which will probably be gone next time we come through since they are in the process of being replaced. This area is much more utilized as a recreational area than Cairo, Ill which is almost totally filled with empty buildings and storefronts and has obviously seen better days. The Land Between the Lakes must be " dry" since Higgins has signs saying first chance for liquor as we left and signs on the other side the road saying last chance for liquor. Nevertheless, I'd like to return and follow the Trace between the two rivers--it looks as though it would be beautiful country. On we continued through small Kentucky towns with lovely old buildings, past more open country until we came to an obelisk that we remembered from the year we followed the Ohio to Pennsylvania. It is a monument to Jefferson Davis--he has taught here as a young man and the monument marks the site of the school in which he taught. At an intersection where Owensboro was an option we remembered our stay there and the walk we took along the Ohio and the BBQ buffet that was so awful I got sick to my stomach. Fortunately, we were headed to Bowling Green where Smoky the Pig is located and we sure don't get sick on his BBQ! We got the food to go this time, since I felt too tired to sit in a restaurant to eat. Retired to our favorite Sleep Inn and were again bathed in the light of the silvery moon. The next day the rain that had threatened for two and a half days finally caught up with us. It seemed in our memory to be only the second time on this trip that we had inclement weather. We got onto I 65 --a very familiar road to us and headed North but instead of remaining on it to Cincinatti we left it at the Blue Grass Parkway and headed for Bourbon country. This is one of the most beautiful areas of Kentucky and one of my favorite areas on the East coast. It is horse country and the rail fences and open paddocks and horses and beautiful homes are just very relaxing to me. It is manicured and almost smells of money but I love its orderliness and lines. Coming into Bardstown you immediately see the huge rick houses of various distilleries. It is claimed that the water here with the limestone deposits it runs over and through is what produces the bourbons of the area. I have my favorites and one of them comes from Heaven Hill Distillery--Elijah Craig 24 year old single barrel--but they were out of it. We had finished my bottle this year with Dan Williams a friend and former colleague at Thetford Academy. I was anxious to replace it but I had to settle for 12 year old instead. Picked up a pork rub that looks interesting and some bourbon pecan brittle. From Heaven Hill we wandered back to the Blue Grass Parkway and over to Wild Turkey to pick up some Rare Breed. One of the master distillers was there signing labels--probably a Beam relative--they are scattered throughout all the distilleries in the area. Didn't linger since the rain was really picking up. Although my favorite bourbon is Buffalo Trace from Frankfort, we can get it at home and, though it would have been fun to see Freddy, it was out of our way and an unnecessary trip. That distillery also produces Blanton's, my absolute favorite and the one I treat myself to whenever I want to feel pampered. The new bottle awaits in the liquor cabinet. 62 West goes through real horse country but the rain prevented me from getting any really nice pix of the rolling land and its colors. It is off this road that Woodford Distillery is located with its beautiful gray fieldstone rick houses and its comfortable and elegant visitors' center is located. Neither the weather nor my strength were conducive for a visit, but I WILL get there one day. Barb and I visited on our last trip but arrived too late in the afternoon to tour the grounds.So we instead took off to a lovely back road 1681 that miraculously brought us into Lexington two blocks away from the Clarion where we had reservations. It has a terrific pub where I drank Buffalo Trace on one rock and had a delicious steak dinner. It was our first night out since Abilene Texas way back in February. We had a wonderful time chatting with another Freddy, the barkeep, and a fellow who travels the world as the man in charge of transportation for a family that owns and shows horses. He and we agreed that we could not understand why more people weren't for Kasich bemoaned the fact that the four front runners are all disasters waiting to happen! The next day was rainy too and we spent it making our way into Ohio. Since we were so close to Cincinnati where we usually stay we just continued across our last bridge from Covington, Ky into Cincinnati and on through Columbus. It was interstate driving and a road we travel every year. We didn't want to stay in Mansfield Ohio where there are two motels owned by the same people as well as an awful restaurant,an Grandfather's something or other. We have learned from two past visits that just about anyplace is better than there so we pushed through to Medina, just outside of Cleveland. The next day was more of the same familiar ground--along the high ground overlooking Lake Erie, to the New York border to Buffalo and then East to our stop in Rome. By this time, Bill was fully recovered and I was feeling very much improved though still had an occasional coughing spell but had stopped taking Mucinex or eating Ricola like they were going out of style. Not wanting to take a chance on making Barb sick we bypassed Saratoga on Easter Sunday and at Ballston Spa headed over to Malta at around 1130 and picked up the Northway. Through Ft Edward, Hudson Falls and Whitehall to Rutland. Texting with Betsy most of the way. Over Killington to White River and a stop at Betsy's place. Gave her some of the things we'd gotten for her and visited for about a half hour in the beautiful sunshine. Got home around 3pm and called Barb to let her know we were back safely. I had sent flowers to my Aunt for Easter and she had called on Sat to thank us. She, too, very sick with some sort of respiratory thing that wouldn't let go. They gave her a cat scan on Friday and so I shared that info too. A bit worried since she is 93 and, though very healthy, pneumonia at that age can be fatal. Spent the rest of the day sorting the mail and opening pacges. Also reuniting with the cats who seemed very happy to have us home. Especially Shadow, who just wouldn't let us out of his sight--would only go out if Bill was with him and followed us everywhere. Attila, who has been through this before, was very casual about the whole thing. But I found him staring at me with a smile on occasion! And so our fellow travelers, another trip comes to an end. It was different and sad to say we spent almost as much money as ever but mostly on long term stays in sick room motel rooms. We did get to spend a longer time with Bud and Gloria, which was a highlight. I got in some scrapping. The weather was beautiful for the journey and we had a nice visit to New Iberia. Got to see a different part of Texas and to revisit parts of Oklahoma and Missouri we haven't seen in years. Purchased beautiful things at Perry Null and Grandmother's Buttons. Spent time in a lovely if rainy part of Kentucky and drank some very fine Bourbon. And, though sicker than we've been in years, we managed to overcome it with no residual symptoms, which is perhaps the best outcome of all. Hopefully, our next adventure will be more like others we've embarked upon and less like this one. Until we take off once more, thank you all for coming along. I've loved our emails as always and thank you, too, for sending us get well wishes all along--they were very cheering when we were no where near family and friends. Thank goodness we get along fairly well with each other--lol. Signing off for this year, The Traveling vagabonds KandB

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