Welcome to the

Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lazy days in Lafayette, Jeanerette and Ville Platte, La

Hi Trekkers! Well, the stuffed nose comes and goes. When it comes it is scary because I feel I cannot breath. Almost have to fight panic. When I can breath it is such a relief. I don't really feel sick other than avoiding panic attacks and getting tired easily--but I imagine lack of Oxygen will do that to you! LOL But enough of sick bay report-- I actual think I may be allergic to those live oaks or some other pollen releasing creature. Yesterday was to be our big Lafayette excursion. It started out perfectly, just as planned. Banana splits for breakfast at Borden's, whose parking lot was barricaded. I knew then that our plans would change. It was 10:30 and already folks were gathering along the barricades that never come down during the month--today's parade was to start at 12:30 and we wanted to avoid the mess that entails as best as possible. After " breakfast" we walked across the street to Keller's bakery---the cases were almost bare and the store was packed with people picking up their specially ordered king cakes, which are huge! We got back in the car and headed over to Congress St, where Bill's coin shop is located. Passed the Cajun Dome and the other athletic fields and buildings of University of Louisiana. Things were getting set up for the big amusement park like celebration after the parade. I waited in the car, basking in the sun while Bill shopped. When he came out he headed away from Legnieux, but since we both know the town so well now, I just thought he was going a special way to avoid the parade traffic. But, no, he forgot I wanted to get a fried oyster po'boy for lunch and some boutin for dinner. Since we were well away from the restaurant I said, forget it, let's go to Jeanerette and Mac's supermarket to pick up the small king cakes they have, plus some nasal decongestant, replenish our juice and water supply etc So that is what we did. Spent almost $100!!! Unusual spices and foodstuffs we don't get at home, some culinary goodies for Betsy, some tissues for my silly nose, as well as our original shopping! By then, I was feeling tired, so we stopped at Duffy's Diner, another local recommendation, to get po'boys and the place was jam packed. Not surprised at 1pm on Mardi Gras Saturday. Tuesday Fat Saturday--sounds nutsy! Bill suggested we go back to the motel for an hour or so and then come back. But, though usually I would do that, I knew I wouldn't go back out today. So we ate in Ruby Tuesday, right next to the motel. Kind of a gourmet let down but good enough. Took a nap. Then started packing stuff up for our departure. Had Pomegranate honey tea with King Cake for supper. I think my sugar quota for the day was met. Popped a couple Alka Selzer cold and severe congestion meds and off to dreamland at 8pm. Slept almost 12 hours not counting every two hours up to bathroom and drinking more water. Took our time today getting ready for our move to Ville Platte, flat city. And it is, flat, that is. Not sure I'd call a burg with 7000 people a city but they are doing so here! This is truly the prairie land of Louisiana, filled with rice patties and crawfish ponds. The egrets gather at various pools to feast. Crawley calls itself Rice City and has rice sheds spreading out in every direction. The air conditioning is off and I'm feeling a bit chilled. Think I will cuddle up on the couch in my nightgown and read my new book about Carnival--good-bye to meat--until Masterpiece tonight. I hope the shows are on, since I have no desire to listen to multimillionaire actors spout off on politics. Gag! We got here at 1230--only 88 miles from New Iberia. Bill's friend Jimmy Jack called and Bill called him back but got his answering machine. JJ wants to know when we will be arriving. Bill told him about ten days in his message. We'll see. Anyway, I'm going to get warmed up and read. Talk to you as soon as we get going on something like the rural MG festivities. Take care all, KandB

Joy, Hope and Strength of Women Singing Together in Time of War--The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

World War II and the Nazis have arrived right across the water from Chilbury, England. The men for the most part have gone off to war and the women must fend for themselves. The Vicar has decreed that since there are no male voices available for the Choir it must be suspended indefinitely. Prim, a newcomer to town, says there is no better time for there to be music and singing than during times of hardship and stress. With very little effort this little ball of enthusiasm has rallied the women. They are all ages from 13 year old Kitty on up. The stories of these women told through letters to sisters or friends, through diary entries and once in awhile through community bulletin board postings or newspapers are engrossing. Each one of these ladies become three dimensional folks dealing with widowhood, pregnancy, loss of loved ones, unrequited love, secret love affairs, and even several Nazi bombings. Their fears, loves, disappointments, determination to survive, become the readers. In the end, there is joy in the successful songfest bringing the community together for a moment of happiness and hope.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cajun Swamp Tour and Chez Jacqueline

Hello Trekkies---ohhhhhh, nasal congestion, dark rings under my eyes and tiredness! A little fever now and then, too. BUT, not going to miss out on the important things, though napping and drinking liquids til my kidneys float have also become part of the daily routine. I'm going to beat this thing, dammit. Anyway, bed early last night and up by 630 this morning. Wanted to have plenty of time to get ready for the Swamp Tour with Shawn set for 9 am. It is about a 45 minute drive from here to Lake Martin and I wanted to eat something before heading out. Wasn't sure if we were going to have rain, since it looked pretty gray and wet but by the time we were headed back through St Martinsville and Parks to Lake Martin, which is in Breaux Bridge, the sun rose amongst the thick clouds. I did not have to wear my fleece jacket or hat that I'd brought along in case. We weren't at the Lakeside long before Shawn showed up to unfurl the business banner and say hi. As it turned out we were lucky enough to only have to share him with a lady and her two sons from Austin, Tx. She was born in Houma which is way down on the delta, grew up in Lafayette and had brought her boys, out of school, to see where she grew up, went to school and some of the things she did as a young girl. Aidan is a junior in high school, a handsome, quiet boy soon to be a young man. He is at that age where at times he looks still like a boy, but then moves and gives a look that shows the man he will soon be. He is an A student who hopes to major in physics in college but loves all science. We had some nice chats during the tour. His little brother, Reese, is in fifth grade and while really enthused at the beginning of the tour, about an hour in, started to be bored with the same old same old. At first he was afraid of the alligators, especially since the first big one we saw hissed at us ominously. We had to assure him that it was a bluff from an alarmed, frightened animal. We backed off and the alligator placidly stayed near with his eyes open but still as a dead log. There was some chop in the lake but it was truly a perfect day--not too hot, not too cold, cloudy sun and a slight breeze. A lot of the big alligators are not out of their watery lairs yet, but they are gradually coming out as the air warms. There was a flood during the year we were gone and Shawn says the tiny alligators we'd normally see at this time of year are not appearing--he thinks they were lost. We did find a clutch however that are probably one year olds. Birds--great blue herons, lesser blue herons, green herons and white egrets as well as black winged whistling tree ducks were in abundance. The ducks were in a big flock, but they are pairing off and paid little attention to us as they went about their courting etc. At least one pair had already broken away from the rest. After the tour, 2 1/2 hours later, with a huge party waiting for the next tour, we bid farewell to Shawn until next time--it has been our fourth of fifth trip, plus I went once with Barbara. It is always slightly different but the peace and beauty remain the same. I love the serenity. We headed into Breaux Bridge, intending to eat at Café Des Amis which Mme deBiche and the lady at the Jeanerette Museum had suggested but they were closed with a sign in the window saying they'd reopen in January. What?? Oh, well, walked down the street of ancient buildings filled with antiques and one devoted totally to clocks of all sorts to Chez Jacqueline. Oh, my, a lady definitely from Paris and just so welcoming. A real bistro type place which, as the sign says, is NOT a fast food place. I had a huge glass of sweet tea, an order of escargots---heaven! served with the crustiest baguette this side of France and sweet butter! Then a cup of crawfish etouffee, which was so full of crawfish there was barely broth to cover them and hardly room for any white rice to cool it down. And, yes, there was a wait but it gave me time to extricate a silvery bauble necklace saying IRIS, which I was ordered to put that round your neck, girl! Also, for the little place to fill up. First with three young college age men who were in town to listen to Sen Cassidy, whoever that is. Then a group of four middle aged Mardi Gras necklaced folks, one of whom brought some kind of food to Jacqueline with the hug and kiss-kiss on the air near both cheeks. Followed by three women with a baby boy, who started to cry when Mom set his baby seat so he couldn't see the room. Once she adjusted his seat, he became fascinated by Bill and just stared and stared. In the meantime, we were surrounded by the soft voices of the women speaking French to each other and to Jacqueline. Our delightful waitress said my escargots smelled heavenly but she just could not bring herself to try them. I think by the time I'd finished I'd convinced her to do so next time they were made. She had been convinced by Jacqueline to try alligator bites but not the snails. I haven't tried the alligator yet. Maybe some day! We went into town and found the bank I'd discovered for Bill last night. He got his nickels and then withdrew some money to use at the coin shop tomorrow in Lafayette. That is his hobby--coin collecting--mine is jewelry. By this time, I was really dragging and so we returned to the motel. By the time we got to the room it was 2ish so I climbed into bed and took a nap. Fell right into a deep sleep. Don't think I'll have any problem sleeping tonight at all. Woke up in time to watch The Five, at four--lol and then downed a lemon tea and some ginger snaps. Going back to bed to read and do my puzzle then I think I'll turn in. I have to be careful not to go to bed too early because then I wake up in the early morning hours and can't get back to sleep. Tomorrow, we go to Lafayette. Can't wait--fun things in store, including, I hope a Borden's banana split for breakfast!!! Will have to be an early start--so that we can go to Lagnieux before they close at 1--for fried oyster po'boy. Glen, quick question--can't remember and it is driving me mad. The motel has three floors--ground, 1 and 2. So our room with a 300 number is actually on 2nd floor. That is the French method of identifying levels but I cannot remember what they are called in French. Premier etage, duexieme ( sp ) etage???? I can't even spell them correctly anymore! groan! Anyway, this limp rag is heading back to the soft cuddliness of my bed. Don't have a secondary infection yet, still all viral but hope I can keep ahead of these bugs. Wish me luck. Have a good night. Talk to you all tomorrow. KandB

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Around New Iberia and Abbeville, Louisiana

This part of Louisiana is a favorite area that we always spend at least a week enjoying. Woke this morning at 6 with a stuffed nose and slight fever. Went back to sleep until 8 and then, kind of dazedly tried to get it together for the day. Called Cajun Swamp Tours to make our reservation for 9 am tomorrow to go see our old alligator friends, led this year by Shawn, son of the owner. Ate a small breakfast, showered and washed my hair, dried it with a blow dryer, with several moments of sit down and rest. Very groggy, stuffed sinus feeling. Took an Aleve--very unusual for me. Finally, by ten we got out the door. Since we are staying in New Iberia we decided to stay around these haunts for the day. Started with Books Along the Teche, a truly miniscule book shop, run by a delightful red haired lady and her husband. Somewhere I have their names but don't recall them at the moment. She is always sad that we never make the James Lee Burke festival and I don't think we will be here this year either. Since today's picture of the day prompt was OUTSIDE, I decided pictures of us outside our ports of call today would be fun. Although neither of us are outside Victor's, it is a character in JLB's Robicheaux series. Dave Robicheaux, the cop in the books, eats here often. Hence the note in the window saying Dave eats here. The first time I came to New Iberia, with my friend Linda, I said who the heck is Dave? Having now read 13 of the books, I know who Dave is. He has been played by Tommy Lee Jones in those books made into movies. The most recent one has a shot of TLJ hopping out of a car right across the street from Books Along! And I recognized it. I always buy my next installment of JLB's books here and one or two books written about the area by local authors. It was here that I purchased Queen Sugar a couple of years back. Today, I bought a history of Bayou Teche, the river that runs through New Iberia , Beaux Bridge, etal. I also bought a book about the history of Mardi Gras celebrations in Acadiana through the years. Our next stop was Konriko Mill. Mme DeBiche was there today! She only works part-time and so we have not seen her for a couple of years. She is one of the sweetest ladies I've ever met. She gave me a big hug good-bye as we left. Many of the local places we frequent in this area were suggested by her--especially in Lafayette, where she grew up and which we shall visit tomorrow. Bought some pecan oil for Barb, a new elegant fleur de lis scarf for me and Bill got stuff to send home to Betsy--she loves to cook and he always pulls a box of rice, seasonings etc to send to her. As a gift, but also as an incentive to pick up the mail at least once while we are gone! Then we went searching for a branch of our bank so Bill could turn in nickels for some new ones--well, hopefully old ones, that will be new to him. Even though Mme DeBiche told us it was on Rue LEWIS--lol-- Bill thinks she said to turn left but he turned right--anyway, we didn't find it. So, I looked up the branches and there is one in Breaux Bridge, where we will lunch tomorrow. Finally, getting to be 12:30 and me beginning to flag, we decided to head out to Shucks--our favorite oyster restaurant in the area. A dozen oysters on the half-shell each, a cup of crawfish etoufee and two huge glasses of sweet tea and we were in heaven! I love the fact that they bring a small bowl, a teaspoon, small container of horseradish and quarters of lemon for us to use in making our own seafood sauce. On the table is a huge tray of hot sauces, garlic sauce, worchestershire sauce, and tomato cocktail sauce. Bill says it was ketchup but it isn't--I can't think what the tomato stuff is in the short fat bottle. Anyway, you mix these things together in whatever ratios taste right for you. I think that is as much fun as the eating. We then took a spin through Abbeville, which is the town Shucks is in, to locate a bank branch but no dice. Hence my internet search upon our return to the motel. Bill went off to Chile's for a couple beers. I did some more banking-bill paying--they aren't all posted at the same time, so I have to keep checking til I've set up payments for them all for the month. I washed out my lovely purple blouse on which I'd spewed coffee yesterday morning, when it went down the wrong way. I don't think it stained, thank goodness. Watched The Five--thank goodness Juan was on today. Bob, poor man, is worse for wear since his battle with pain killer addiction. I just cannot handle him since he has returned. Not because he is a liberal--Juan is liberal--but because I cannot even follow his train of thought when he speaks. Drives me nuts. His cohorts are getting frustrated with him, too,I think . I have a quandary tonight--Big Bang is on at 7 and Carine, the lady who manufactures the scrapbook stencils I love, is having a live 30 minute presentation on our closed FB page at the same time. Maybe I'll flip a coin. Lastly, you may have noticed a large number of pix of the Live Oaks, those elegant trees. I am totally enamoured of them. They are built like a broccoli head, a short trunk and multiple major branches coming off it--so it looks like many trunks. What it lacks in height the tree makes up in breadth. The branches extend for feet, horizontally and then curve downward, some even touching the ground. One tree spreads out to shade a whole lawn. Spanish moss drapes down like tinsel on a Christmas tree and resurrection fern clothes the branches in feathery emerald green. So, not only are the trees stunning and majestic but they are survivors, perfectly built for a hurricane plagued area. In Biloxi, that has been scoured clean several times by hurricanes, the Live Oaks blithely continue to shade lawns of houses that have been completely obliterated, with only a cement apron or a set of entrance steps to show where they stood. The oak isn't tall, it isn't top heavy with a gigantic canopy high in the air, its branches curve downward, challenging the winds to lift them. They are flexible in their springy arms. So when their lofty proud neighbors lie flat on the ground or are snapped like a toothpick between thumb and index finger, they stand serenely waiting for the next onslaught. I just love them. Well gang, starting to get stuffy nosed again and feeling tired. So, I'm going to sign off. Tomorrow I'll take you to the Swamp, Breaux Bridge and Lafayette. I think you'll like them. Until then, thinking of you all, hope you are happy, healthy, and safe. Good night KandB

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Vidalia-Natchez-St Francisville-New Iberia

Hello Trekkers! I've bombarded you with probably four photo albums this evening but I decided to divide the pictures into little stories. First, rather than adding to the album in which we arrived in Vidalia with the views of our room and the Mississippi River and Natchez, I made a new album that showed the River and its activity starting with evening as we were getting ready to eat and then bed down. If, as you look at the pictures, you read the info beneath them, there is a date and time when the photo was taken. You will see that when I retired shortly after 11, the bridge was still ablaze with light as was Natchez. It was a restless night for me--I think the stress of doing the bills--I just hate accounting--the softness of the bed, my fatigue and the impending trip to Grandmother's Buttons all played a role in waking me several times during the night and early morning hours. I took the opportunities to see what was happening on the Big Muddy--nothing!--the bridge--who could find it??--and Natchez--pretty quiet. It was fun to see the difference in the lighting of the sky as morning started to come and watch an adorable little tug racing down to the next dock--probably getting ready to start its day with a waiting barge--in the pitch darkness. THEN, when I awoke for the day, imagine the surprise of a picture window blank as inactive TV screen--fogged in!! Took ages for the fog to lift and by the time it did we were ready to head back across the bridge to Natchez and hang a right onto Rt 61 which goes almost straight as a die to St Francisville. While we were near the River the fog that had lifted created huge clouds that I was sure was going to cover the sky. Yet, as we continued farther south and more away from the water, they broke up into much smaller masses. St Francisville is an adorable little town with many small, very old houses. It is on the Mississippi, up on a hill above it. I'm not sure what brought us here the first time on our first trip. I don't think I knew about Grandmother's Buttons--I think we found it as we drove around the town. I know we went to several plantations on that first visit and I think they were the reason we came. That first year there was a Comfort Inn there--the motel still exists but it is not part of the chain and is considerably more expensive than those that are. I love this village, but I suspect there is a great deal of money behind those doors and to live here would be beyond our means. I've made one album of the drive down to and around the village. Grandmother's Buttons is a small company owned by a lady who loved playing with her Grandmother's Buttons and who, when she grew up, continued playing with buttons--all sorts, mostly vintage --some more modern. She and her workers craft them into impossibly beautiful pieces of jewelry that are quite reasonably priced. The workshop is on the second floor of this salmon colored building, which is an old bank. As you walk into the store, you encounter the original bank of tellers windows fitted into a curved wall of beautifully carved wood. The setting is perfect for the product. I've made a separate album called "the jewels" because not only do I make a visit here every year to add to my collection and buy my daughter's birthday gift, but I also have turned my sister and my friend, Joyce, onto the jewelry. So, I tried to make this a special album for them. Barb has been there with me, but Joyce has not. Toward the end of the photos I've shown my purchases this year, except Betsy's gift which Susan will mail to her for me. Susan was in Las Vegas this time so I was not able to pass on your message directly to her, Joyce but I left it with the salesgirl. Also, since she wasn't there, I had to leave the bracelet Bill bought me for Easter which I wanted altered and a pair of Barb's earrings which she wanted altered. ( BTW, I wore them for a whole day and didn't have the problem; wore mine and they were fine, too. BUT, I asked for the alteration you want. Both items will be mailed to me in Vt and I'll get the earrings to you when I get home, Barb) The last album covers the final leg of today's journey--South and West--on the backroads we know as well as those back home. Across the Atchafalaya Swamp, down through Breaux Bridge with its allees of Live Oak, festooned with Spanish moss and resurrection fern, past St Peter's in New Iberia to Chile's and dinner. Then to the Quality Inn on Rt 14. Tomorrow, we will make reservations to go on the Cajun Swamp Tour and see the alligators in Lake Martin, we'll go to Books along the Teche for my next David Robicheaux novel and something by a local author or set in the local vicinity, Bill will go to our Bank and get some nickels to peruse, we'll go to Shucks for raw oysters and crawfish etoufee, and we'll go to Konriko and pick up some pecan oil. . We'll be here until Sunday morning--so we'll be making a foray up to Lafayette for boudin and a Borden's banana split. I'll get brownies and mini chocolate-coconut whoopee pies from Keller's and Bill will go to the coin shop. This is an annual stomping grounds--lots of regular things to do and a little exploration to see what we've missed through the years. As for tonight, having already watched the only two shows I cared about, Lethal Weapon and something or other Crimes, I will try to get closer to the end of the book I've been reading, it seems like forever. And then to bed. I hear the Northeast is getting some bearable weather for a change. Glad Joyce and Betsy and Jane are having some pleasant weather for their school breaks. Hope everyone else is safe and warm and dry. Until next time, which may not be for a few days--good night from Cajun country. KandB

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Peaceful Drive Down the Natchez Trace

Tuesday Feb 21, 2017 Comfort Inn Vidalia Louisiana 4 pm Hello once more, Trekkies! Today's photo album is probably best viewed as a slide show--with your own travelling music playing and the beverage of your choice at hand. It is mostly a stream of consciousness view of a scenic drive that is actually a National Park. The Natchez Trace runs 400+ miles between Nashville, Tn and Natchez,Ms. It is a favorite drive of Bill and I and, when travelling with her, my sister, Barbara and I. I've lost count of the number of times we've traveled the full length North to South or South to North. Also innumerable are the travels that covered only short sections of it--as we often did the year we spent three months in Nashville. We've seen it when there has been snow in the northern part or the puddles have been iced over. We've seen it when all the flowers and flowering trees and shrubs were in full flush of bloom. There is never a time that it is not beautiful and every time I notice something different upon which to focus. Today my mind seemed to notice textures, colors, shapes and change. From the twisted bare trees with branches gnarled and shaped like arthritic knobby witch fingers trying to pluck us right off the road, to the more graceful and stately tall trees of the end of the road, tree shapes were a focus. More evergreens farther north. Different colored flowering trees, oranges and reds. Trees whose branches were so fine and white that they look like dark trunks surmounted by clouds of smoke. The barks are patterned finely or with large patches of scaly wood. Other plants use the branches of these trees to perch and get exposure to the sun, so that they can make food for themselves. Some of these branch clingers or sitters are grateful for the support and do absolutely no harm to the tree --things like Spanish moss, wispy and ethereal at this time of year--so gray, like an old man's beard. Another beautifying plant using the trees, the gorgeous and dainty Resurrection fern. It sits dry and brown, sort of dirty looking along the thick branches of some of the evergreens. Then the rains come and it just get emerald in color and forms velvety looking sleeves on the thick arms of these trees. There are others, however, though beautiful are ungrateful takers--mistletoe looks like huge Christmas tree balls on the limbs of the pines and yet it is a parasite--taking food from the tree and weakening it. Another forms a mat of lovely small leaves with tiny bright yellow flowers. From this platform it drops graceful drapes of leaves and flowers---and in time it completely encloses the whole tree, top to bottom and prevents if from obtaining sunshine and kills it dead. This beauty spreads and kills entire sections --it is slowly eating the South and it was deliberately imported to control soil erosion in the 30's and 40's. It actually was imported even earlier as an ornamental and cheap provider of shade. It is a member of the pea family and does replenish nitrogen to the soil, as do all legumes. Not only were the shapes that caught my eye those of living trees--there is the 8 mile stretch of parkway which was devastated by a huge tornado several years ago. I am always interested to see how nature is reclaiming the area. And I always look toward the home behind the trees whose roof was blown totally away and which I saw as the roof was being restored. I cannot imagine living that close to a tornado! Some of the shapes were periodically distorted by the sheen of rain covering the windshield, my window and the window of the sun roof. The fickle weather would sprinkle, stop, later it would rain a bit harder, then a few small batches of blue would appear and the sky lighten a bit. Just as we'd believe the weather was clearing the skies would open up and a deluge would pour down on us. It is fascinating to me the difference in human optics and camera optics. Sometimes I shot a picture, look at it and see that it is totally worthless because of the reflection or glare on the windshield and yet, as I took the picture, I didn't even notice the obstruction. Other times I want the feeling of the depth of fog or heaviness of water and the camera blocks a great deal of it out. I've used my camera to see more clearly through fog when we've been driving through pea soup. More physics than I have ever bothered to research and probably won't. Eventually, the rain stopped and the cloud cover did break up--into such a dramatic series of thunderheads. So, once more Nature provided me with one of my favorite contemplations, cloud formations. As I write this in our room overlooking the Mississippi, the drama continues and my camera is out! At last, the Trace became a bit more manicured and graceful curves were introduced to the path--signs that we were now approaching Natchez. The Nashville end is all pretty park-land, too. Less natural--more designed. Down through Natchez, across the twin bridges into Vidalia, Louisiana. A quick shot of the motel from the bridge, a fast right at the end of the bridge along the Mississippi and here we are. Across the way, looking like a painting through the picture window--Natchez Under the Hill. To its left the Visitors' Center on the Bluff and to its right, a fancy resort beneath the Natchez water tower. This has taken forever to type, I keep stopping to take pictures of clouds and, more exciting, the barges and tugs going right under our window. God, I could live here! I will add more pix to this album or maybe make an additional one--sites from the picture window looking out on the Big Muddy. For now, though, I'm going to do the bills, since I have a good internet connection. Eat dinner and watch NCIS and Bones, while doing my nails. That is, if I can hide the camera!! Tomorrow--GRANDMOTHER"S BUTTONS!!! Cannot wait. Have to get going. Until tomorrow--take care, all. KandB

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ave Maria Grotto, Chapman Covered Bridge and Hello to Tupelo

Quality Inn Tupelo Mississippi 720PM Monday Feb 20 Hi Trekkies! I never remember how I put the header on the email--but I guess as long as place, town, time, day and date are there the important poop is all included. One thing about this CST time zone, I'm going to bed earlier and rising earlier. Also, slowly but surely, I'm getting back into walking and breathing shape. Last night I woke up at 1130 and thought I'd only been in bed a half hour, though I felt as though I'd been sleeping forever. THEN, I remembered that my Masterpiece programs that would have ended at 11 at home and I would have turned out the light and gone to sleep, actually ended at 10! So, I'd already slept an hour and a half. Got up at 7 and felt fit as a fiddle. Got to breakfast by 730 and we were on the road in town by 830. I had looked at the listing of local sites in the motel directory and found the info on the Ave Maria Grotto. In 1891 the Benedictine monks established St Bernard Abbey to serve the German Catholics of Northern Alabama. They purchased a log cabin and 160 acres of land at $2 an acre. Over time they quarried the rock to build various buildings resulting in a campus containing a magnificent church, a college preparatory school for boys, a retreat house, an abbey and, of course, a gift shop! Actually, the gift shop probably arose from what developed in the old quarry. About the time the purchase of cabin and land in Cullman, Alabama, a Benedictine monk returned to Europe to recruit young men for the Abbey. Among them was a young, very small, sickly young fellow from Landshut, Bavaria. His name was Michael Zoettl, soon to become Brother Joseph Zoettl. He cried all night the night before he was to leave Bavaria for America but he later said he learned the meaning of homesickness many years later in Stonega, Va. Probably at the time, when as a housekeeper, a fellow monk told him the food he prepared was poison and went so far as to check the stove ashes to see if any had been removed and added to the pot. Now, there was a real Benedictine --very brotherly--but then though religious they are still human and some humans are kinder than others. I suspect, that along with being physically frail, that Brother Joseph may not have been the smartest among the Abbey residents. He was posted all over the South as housekeeper---two postings in Alabama, one in Tennessee , two in Virginia. But, finally, after nineteen years, Joseph was recalled to Cullman. He was put in charge of the new powerhouse and worked seventeen hour days including Sundays, hardly managing to attend Mass. To relax in what little time he had to himself he returned to the hobby he had pursued in the past--the building of miniature buildings. I started with a church he built in cement and then moved to small oriental buildings he called Little Jerusalem. He set them out in the recreation area. A visiting priest saw them and brought some friends to see them. Soon, another priest asked Joseph to built grottos or caves to accommodate some small statues he'd purchased. Joseph thought that would be the end of it, but this enterprising Brother sold the statues and their grottoes, bought some more statues, and pressed Joseph into building more grottoes. Father Dominic was in business and Joseph's hobby was not a job--after building 5000 small grottoes, the Abbot got the brilliant idea to set Joseph up in the old quarry! And the first thing he built was a 25ft high, by 25ft wide, by 25 ft deep grotto with hand made stalactites, an altar made of marble and ground shell ect. A statue of Mary holding the Christ Child was installed and statues of the twins--Benedict and Scholastica--place in front of her. The twins between them established the Benedictine orders of Brothers and Nuns. These orders still live life following the Rule of Benedict, established in the fourth century with adaptions over time for modern life. For the remainder of his life, which ended at 83 years old in 1961, Brother Joseph created 125 miniatures of famous buildings of Jerusalem and Bethlehem from the days of Christ from birth to death on the cross, churches of the Franciscan missions in California and Texas, ancient churches and castles of Europe, buildings representing fairy tales, and others I cannot remember. They exist now in the quarry that has become a landscaped hillside with a walkway wending through the structures made my a man without any architectural training. He used chicken wire and found objects with cement and pumice. One church utilizies blue ink bottles to create a beautiful blue glass cross. Another uses two discarded toilet floats to make the tops of the domes on its two towers. Yet another uses ten cold cream jars for tables ect. Marbles and shells and shards of broken dishes are used throughout as well as small tiles. The details are amazing. After spending two hours meandering among these small buildings that represented more than 40 years of this man's life we left Cullman behind and headed west toward Mississippi and Tupelo. Along the way we stopped at the Coleman Covered Bridge--just a beautiful lacy lattice work of art in its own right. Passed right through what must have been a bloody skirmish in which the Union soldiers were driven North by the Rebel cavalry. For a time it was just us and four tractor trailers moving in tandem Westward on a two lane road. Have not a clue why it became a four lane in Hamilton since there was no more there than any other town--must be a Senator lives there! Having already made our reservation at the Quality Inn, we decided to swing North and come into Tupelo on the Natchez Trace, rather than drive through the heart of town. Stopped at Logan's Steakhouse for an early dinner and then checked in to our familiar one room non-suite--though it is quite roomy and not at all like an old motel room--closet sized! I tried to upload the Ave pix but there are 200 and the internet here is quite slow. I'd be here next week still trying to get them uploaded. So, they will come when I can get them up more quickly. I'm a bit disappointed, because, though it was fairly early morning and the sun was not really bright and glaring yet, many of the pix are more washed-out than I'd like. But still, I think you'll get a feel for the work of this remarkable, simple, artistic man. I hope you will appreciate it, though to see it in person is much more impressive. Oh, by the way, the sun did become bright and blinding and the temperature rose to 79 degrees at one point. Too hot, really! Well, no worthwhile TV tonight--Bill is watching some college basketball game. I'm going to dig out my Women's Choir book--I'm almost finished it. Thank you for your emails--I try to answer them as soon as I get them but sometimes I have to wait until the day is done. In the meantime, stay warm or dry or cool, whatever the case may be, but, always, stay safe. Until tomorrow and the twinkling bridges over the Mississippi between Natchez and Vidalia, Louisiana, good night, KandB

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lake Guntersville State Park--Eagle Awareness Week-End

Good afternoon from Cullman, Alabama 4:42 pm CST 71 degrees, sunny, cloudless sky. Before I forget, I've added twenty more pictures to the first album from Guntersville. They are the shots of the animals that were part of our evening program on Friday, the first night. We met a small turtle, a yellow slider, whose original name was Michaelangelo after the Ninja Turtles. However, as " he " grew up, having only been the size of a silver dollar when found in the backyard of a lady whose dog wanted to eat " him" for dinner, it was found that the plastron or bottom shell was flat. Hence, " he " proved to be a " she " and was renamed Michele. Male sliders have a curve in the plastron the better to mount and mate with the female, whose upper shell is curved upward. Michele,like other turtles do not survive in just any aquatic location--something I didn't know. They imprint on their birthplace and will always try to return to it. This sexual misidentification is not really unusual--I remember my gray tabby, given me by the St Francis' when I lived in Highgate and much too young to be weaned was named, by me, Olivia. However, about a month or so later, it was obvious that I had an Oliver on my hands. Imagine the staff at the Monshire, however, they had a boa named Stanley. Betsy petted Stanley and we often visited " him" .About three years later, the museum acquired another boa and pretty quickly Stanley laid eggs and was renamed Stephanie, I believe. A lovely yellow corn snake, named Cotton, was presented by the assistant naturalist for the park, Amanda. The markings on Cotton's scutes was striking. I forget how Cotton came to be an exhibit animal. Prior to Cotton, Mandy introduced us to Archimedes, the screech owl. He'd been hit by a car and eye was damaged. These are the smallest of the North American owls and we would have more meetings with others also injured by cars. I know that one was playing tag with us in the Bosque one year. They are fast but if the driver is not able to stop when they do in front of the car, it is not out of the ordinary to hit one. Happily, in the Bosque, it is easy to just play with the owl til it flies off. The star of the presentation, though, is Lucy the opossum. She has imprinted on our naturalist, Kate, as her mother. As you can see by the pictures, Lucy crawls all over Kate. Lucy's Mom was run over by a car, while she was eating some food stuff thrown from a car. She died but Lucy, who was in her pouch and small enough to fit in Kate's hand was still alive. Opossums are the only American marsupials and their young develop in a pouch, like the kangaroo joeys. I asked Kate if there were other babies, since they are born in a litter but she said not to her knowledge--or at least no others that survived. I will never throw an apple core out of the car window again. I've always felt it would decompose or be eaten by an animal. It never occurred to me that the animals would, as they do in camping areas, be accustomed to food along the road and go looking for it--thus being in a place where they could easily be run over. In the case of opossums, they are nocturnal, so they would be there in the dark--not easy to see. Lastly, Mandy brought out a five year old alligator, with his mouth taped closed. He was bought as a pet and then given to the park when the owner no longer wanted him. By then, he was too used to human care and could not be released to the wild. We got to pet Lucy--she is such a soft cottony--a little coarse-furred cuddler. But she will bite so no reaching for the head. Cute as a button trying to sniff my camera from the safety under Kate's arm. After the animals went to bed, Kate filled us in on the programs and field trips being offered over the weekend. To begin with, on Saturday morning, if willing, we could meet in the lobby for coffee at 530 am. We would leave at 6 am to go to a fishing pier to see juvenile eagles. The area is not a nesting but rather a roosting area. Most of the adults have already started north, since these eagles are a migratory group. So, up we got, to a raining cold morning. At first it was just a drizzle. Gulls flew all around us and by looking at the pier there was ample evidence that we were occupying their favorite perching spot. Initially, there were only two. By the time we left the sky was full of gulls. Shortly after arriving we saw an eagle high and I mean super high in the sky. A small black bird, a few wing strokes, a long glide and gone. Eventually, a couple Canada geese drifted over. In the darkness, we got excited till we looked more closely at the long necks, short tails and heard the distinctive honk. Then, one of the ladies excitedly pointed out a big bird flying silently over the water. Mandy said " second incorrect identification, though we sometimes call this one a long-legged eagle! " A great blue heron. As the rain increased and the sky lightened slightly, a black bird with extremely vigorous wing strokes flew by, the destructive cormorant. Their feces is so acidic that it kills the vegetation in the areas where they live. There are several islands in Lake Champlain that are nothing but bare rock, now covered with cormorants' waste. The trees nothing but dead trunks and branches, all covered by the black birds. Lastly, the American coots came swimming into the rain speckled water and we all decided to give it up for this morning. Back to the lodge by 8 for breakfast. Then Bill and I went back to the room. I tried really hard to stay awake but just couldn't function, so went to bed and slept until 1130.When I woke we were socked in with fog!! Decided to read for awhile and then head over for 1:30 entrance to the 2 o'clock program--Wings to Soar. If there had been nothing else happening in this beautiful place, this program was worth every cent of the weekend. A man named John Stokes and his wife, have raptors that have been injured or imprinted by humans in one way or another. For example, the black headed vulture they presented had been picked up by someone who thought it was an abandoned fledgling. Apparently, the parents of these vultures leave them to go hunting. They are often on the ground, seemingly unattended, orphaned. In actuality, the parents are hunting and swallow and partially digest the food, which they then bring up from their stomachs to pour into the chicks mouth. They don't carry the food back like other raptors because their feet are not that strong. After hearing the story of this bird and seeing the one that John and his wife have, I now love black headed vultures. This animal would not stay on its perch, flew over our heads close enough to touch, and then walking on the floor as John spoke. Winding itself in and out of his legs like a cat and almost tripping him. Then the bird would spot his wife and run after her like a dog to get more food. They tried three times to get the vulture to go into the wild--introduced her to a flock with two others. They acclimated, were accepted and went off with the flock. This one doesn't know its a bird and simply had no interest in those other guys. So here he is, traveling with the Stokes and thrilling people by flying low over them. At one point, a young college girl volunteered to let the bird land on her. John dressed her up with pseudo dead squirrel pelts saying they are scavengers so she has to seem like road kill. Then he gave her the glove and, of course, John had food, so up flew the vulture. None of the road kill impersonation had anything to do with it. We saw a variety of birds, a kestrel, a peregrine falcon, a barred owl, a barn owl, a screech owl, a red-tailed hawk, an osprey. The kestrel, barn owl, osprey all were released multiple times to soar above it in paths across our seating area. One bird at a time, of course. And we were told to stay seated, not to reach up to touch the birds in flight, nor to raise our cameras high to photograph the flight. Let me tell you, there was no way that a still camera was going to get a shot of them in flight. But, it was so exciting. The black headed vulture created a wind blowing my hair and he flew a couple of inches above me. The guys in the back of the room, did not stay close to the wall--it was so crowded, there were standing people--no room to put more chairs even if wanted to. The barn owl became confused trying to find point B and flew three confused loops through the room before crashing on the floor in the corner. It was spectacular but quite scary wondering if it had hurt itself on the hard carpeted floor. He was fine. And then the program ended--with Osceola--the 13 yr old Bald Eagle. Shot on purpose and so badly hurt that his left wing had to be amputated. So horribly sad. But John decided that Osceola had to soar once more and, being a hang glider, he fashioned a sling that hangs above him and he takes the Eagle up with him. There is a YouTube of it--which I must find and will share with you when I get a chance. The program lasted an hour and a half and, no pun intended, it just flew. The program was going to be offered again at 5. Bill and I went to the pub and had burgers and a couple of brews. Nate was a barman and sitting near us was a young man, who turned out to be Kate's husband, David. He is a civilian engineer for the government and has just returned from a testing assignment in Yuma. He has also been to the White Sands Testing area in the past. He was a delight and well matched to Kate, we think. I mentioned to her this morning that I'd met a handsome young man named David the night before. She grinned and said, I've met one of them, too! After eating we decided not to go back for the second program--just too tired. As a matter of fact, I went to bed at 8pm!!!!!! I NEVER go to bed that early unless I'm sick. Slept all the way to 5am. Lay there for about minutes trying to decide whether to go down to the fishing pier again this morning. Rolled over and missed it, since I didn't wake up again until 7. Got up and while Bill went to breakfast, I packed most everything. When he came back he put what was ready to go in the car. Then we met for the last time in the lobby to go to the site of an eagles' nest. The parents are there with a young eaglet. It was hard to see from the distance we were, but I did manage to get a shot of the nest and a bit of baby. What I did not see with the naked eye was the parents. If you look closely at the nest picture--to the left and up--there is dad's tail and mom's foot. I did see them through the telescope that Kate brought down. We chatted with a lady we'd met from Gadsen, Al--Barbara Kelly. She went down early again this morning and they saw FOUR eagles!! Grrr. After awhile at this site we decided to go back to our room, make the reservation for this room in Cullman, and get the few things left down to the car. I also made up two envelopes --one for my sister, Barbara, to share with her vet who thinks he might like to come for one of these weekends. The other, for my Aunt Shirley, who I thought might enjoy seeing where we've been. Then we went to check out and have the Sunday Prime Rib Buffet. Took in one last look at two adorable screech owls--both of whom have also been hit by cars. Just like the one on Friday night in Kate's presentation and the one in John's presentation on Saturday. John's bird not only lost an eye but the whole side of its skull had been crushed so hearing is impaired as well as sight. Here the little gray bird is missing an eye. They were so cute, the girl had them facing us and then she turned them so we could see their backs--synchronized, they both turned their heads 200+ degrees to keep us in sight. Smart birds. And so, this incredible week-end was over. I would do it again--oh, yes, after we left the nesting site? The male came down and bathed in the water--giving a full display and plenty of opportunity to film him!!!! Another GRRRRR. So I learned some things about how I'd proceed in a next visit. Many of the people there were repeat visitors and the Wings to Soar, which is open, free to anyone, brings people from miles around to see it. We get reserved seats--good thing! Took some final pix--the black headed vulture who had perched in the tree outside our room window was on the upper balcony of the lodge--drinking from a puddle! A whole lake and he uses a puddle. Also some pix of the entry to our wing right next to the lodge--the elevator opened on our floor, the hallway to the left was just a jutting wall with our corner suite right there. From the balcony of the lodge you can see how our room is right there, off that balcony. There is a distant shot of the causeway we, as it turned out, mistakenly crossed to head to Cullman but the mistake happily gave us the chance to photograph the Lodge etc across the Lake. A picture of Mandy and Amanda and a final hug from Kate, this time dressed as Gunter the Eagle and welcoming Sunday guest to the last program, which we skipped. Stephanie, the usual Gunter had gotten sick so Kate had to fill in--lol Then it was off for our 50 or so mile drive to Cullman by way of Arab. Hmmm, wondered what THEIR sports teams were called --THE ARABS? Not very politically correct. Nope: The Arabian Knights. PHEW! The navigation directions are messed up both in our system and on MapQuest--the destination using them is the Sleep Clinic at the huge hospital complex. Not quite where we wanted to sleep. Tried another listing in the navigation system and it brought us here. Gentleman on the desk gave us an upgrade so we have a bit of a sitting room as well as bedroom. Nice. Well, I hope this wasn't too long and that you enjoyed the wonderful experience we had even without the eagles. Next time! Now, I'm going to get comfy since hopefully the PBS channel is carrying Mercy Street and Victoria. I can always stream them but really like the TV when possible. I see a couple of interesting sites between here and our next stop--Tupelo, Mississippi. Not far from here but we want to take the Trace to Natchez. There is a motel in Vidalia right on the Mississippi which we love. Vidalia is in Louisiana across the Big Muddy from Natchez. So Grandmother's Buttons, I'm getting closer. Tell you all about it tomorrow night. I've got to get in touch with Betsy--bet she thinks we fell off the face of the earth. Nightie night, Trekkies, til then. KandB

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jasper, Tennessee

Good afternoon, Trekkies! Quality Inn Jasper, Tn 3:55 PM CST So we are now an hour earlier than at home. That means that though we left Newport at 10 am and our car clock said we arrived at Jasper at 2 pm, it was really 1 pm. This will probably take me til we move to the next time zone to get it all straight--then, of course, my poor old brain will have to learn what time it is all over again. AARP assures me that these types of mental challenges and gymnastics will avert early senility. Uh-huh. Oops, The Five is on at Four--will get back to you in an hour. As you saw above, we left Newport at 10--late for us, but after a few days we'd made ourselves at home so needed to make sure everything was repacked and not left in a draw or on a counter. We also didn't have far to go and, since we've been in the general area before on our very first trip, we've explored all of the interesting sites, except John Ross' house in Chattanooga. It was just nice to slowly wander down along the Tennessee with all of its enlarged lakes thanks to the TVA system of dams and see the Smokies off to our East. The sun was glorious and the blue sky cloudless. Unfortunately, we were driving into the sun which made it difficult to get very good pictures--a great deal of glare. Not that there was very much variety in the terrain that required many pictures. There was one particular small church that was such an eyesore of swirling white and black stonework that I didn't think to pick up the camera to shoot a shot. In another spot there was a fabulous turquoise and white station wagon, with those white metal coverings on each wheel well. I think that particular color combo in the 50's was a chevy design but not sure. The thing about this rig was that there was a trailer, low to the ground, with a hitch that had exactly the same paint job and wheel coverings. I so wanted to photograph it for Glen, but it was parallel to the road on my side so I didn't see it until we were upon it. Secondly, getting back to it was problematic since we were on a divided highway with legal turnarounds few and far between. :( Lots of old barns etc advertising Rock City--not sure it is even here anymore but it is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the area. I remember those ads from my trips with family as a young teen. We never went--probably why I'm still not a lover of tourist traps. Just outside of Chattanooga we opted to rejoin the Interstate system. Eisenhower made it so easy to avoid going right through the center of big cities on city streets. Still lots of traffic and crazy driving but at least no cross streets or traffic lights or turns to worry about in unfamiliar surroundings. As I mentioned at the outset, we arrived with most of the day left before us. Haven't a clue where the time has gone but I'm getting hungry. Bill went next door to the Western Sizzler buffet for dinner. Not me. Corn pone, grits, collard greens and hot dogs in sauerkraut among other things just don't do it for me. Southeast home cooking is not my favorite American cuisine. So, for me, it is a can of tuna mixed with Hellman's and some Canadian grain crackers. Got to go and whip up my meal. How I wish there was Smoky Pig next door. We were going to go to Nashville, head up to Bowling Green and then back down to Alabama instead of staying the extra day in Newport. Even though it probably means no Smoky Pig this trip, it just seemed like unnecessary driving just for a meal. Besides instead of BBQ in Ky, I got to spend some time with a classmate and her husband. There will be other times at SP but not sure we'll return to this part of Tn anytime soon. Tomorrow we start our ornithological week-end. I'm so excited. American Eagles, here we come. Until then, have a terrific evening. KandB

Staying a Third Night in Newport Tn

Hello Trekkers! Coming to you from the Comfort Inn in Newport Tn for the last time. We were getting packed up and ready to go onward when I told Bill about the weather report on local news last night at 11. A finger of sleet and snow reaching southward to Gatlinburg and a bigger blob stretching toward Knoxville. These two towns were the directions we were debating heading toward Alabama. Granted it was only to last overnight through the morning commute today. By 10, it was predicted to be over and warming to the 40's with sunshine. Considering we are only about 175-200 miles from our Friday destination and check-in is at 4 pm and looking longingly at the Jacuzzi we still hadn't used, it was a no brainer to say--Let's just stay. And so we have. A very relaxing day. I made the reservations in Jasper Tn for tomorrow night. Called our newspaper that said our subscription expired and we should renew so as not to miss any of the NEWS in the Upper Valley ( really???). The subscription is suspended not expired and I had called before we left to tell them to suspend it---email was in error, of course. Called our bank, ' cause I did forget to tell them there would be withdrawals on the account for US sites far and wide. Nice man asked if we were going to Florida, since the bank has a block on debit cards in Florida. Didn't ask why but doesn't matter, we aren't going to Florida. Called my Aunt who had called last evening, after I turned off the phone, to thank me for her Valentine's flowers. I send flowers every month. Made me a little sad because she got weepy while thanking me this morning. She is 94 and sharp as a tack. In the past six or seven months she's had two really severe respiratory infections that weakened and demoralized her. She's sort of over the last one but now she is in severe pain from a hernia. I think the body is beginning to wear out though the brain is not and I think she is getting down because of it. I told her I don't send her flowers to make her cry--I send them because it makes me happy to pick them out--I LOVE flowers and enjoy selecting a different arrangement each month--and that they make her happy and make a bright spot on her windowsill in her room. Pulled her right back out of the blues, thank goodness. Wrote some postcards. Did a little bank account figuring. Sat in the Jacuzzi for 45 minutes and am getting ready, finally, to eat the Moussaka my sister gave me on Sat--hope it is still good. Bill went out about 3 to rustle up some grub for himself. Both Bill and I got some headway in our books--he's reading The Apache Wars, which I've already read and I'm reading The Chilby Ladies Choir. Oh, yes, I read USA Today and did all the puzzles EXCEPT that mathy Soduku or whatever it is. Hate it--too frustrating, Betsy, who doesn't like math, loves them. So, it is now a little after 4. I'm going to turn on the phone to check in by text with my Betsy and then at 5 will watch The Five while I eat. All and all a good, relaxing day. The sun did come out so it was beautiful with blue skies and puffy clouds. No pix today. But we'll be moving along SW Tennessee tomorrow and we'll see what we shall see. Until then, keep sending me your emails--I love hearing what you are doing and your comments and / or questions. Glen, your Florida pix with Francis and wife were great and you look healthy and happy. Sally, the amaryllis is truly glorious. I'm so glad Bill bought it when I picked it out for you. Sweet dreams KandB

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Second Day in Tennessee--The Smokies and An Old Friend

Good evening from Newport, Tn once more, Trekkies. It is Feb 14--hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day--605 pm and we are at the Comfort Inn. Retired at 10 pm last night with the light of an almost full moon shining on our bed. I love when that happens--I find it so relaxing, peaceful and beautiful. Having slept a good nine hours last night and since it started out as a beautiful sunny day, I decided it would be a terrible waste not to go to the Smoky Mountains. Bill had purchased an adorable Valentine's card which lay on the desk and I opened very first thing. Then I quickly checked email and FB before eating and dressing for the day. On FB, a high school classmate of mine had commented on the Bush truck picture that we were nearby. Seems she lives in Cosby, through which we drove to get to Gatlinburg this morning. So we arranged to stop in for a visit on our way back from the National Park. Almost all of Rt 321 South between Newport and Gatlinburg is filled by one resort, trailer park resort, golf course or condominium village after another. They are packed foot to jowl on every free spot of land. It is terrible. But as ugly and awful as that was, Gatlinburg itself is disgusting. I cannot imagine a place so full of shops of every kind, hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, condos as this is. I hate places like this and the mob scenes they produce. Just a mile outside the town limits is the National Park--as you are leaving the park and stopped at a traffic light, the road funnels you right back into the mess. The park itself is such an oasis of serenity in comparison. We did not go very high into the mountains--the roads are narrow, twisty and have many drop-offs--they are mountains after all, as the young ranger told me. She grew up on a 100 acre farm in Cosby, Tn. Cosby near the school is pretty devoid of the touristy glitz but it is not far away and I'm sure the plague will eventually spread the 10 miles distance. Even without climbing high up, these mountains are impressive, if only for the row upon row of heights like waves climbing to the sky. Oh, those folded mountains. We backtracked to Cosby and stopped to visit with Karen, who graduated with me from St Mary's Academy in Glens Falls, and her husband, Bill. I thought I'd met him at reunion but no, he wasn't there. Later, I realized I recognized him from pictures on FB. LOL Oh, technology. Bill M is an organic gardener, who sells watermelons and blueberries primarily. He and Karen relocated here from Warrensburg , NY. They had specific factors for choosing a place to go--sort of reminds me of my BIL, Larry, who also had things, including a waterfall that had to be present for him to buy a place. For Bill it was good soil, he carried a shovel when looking at locations, water in the form of a creek or brook, mild climate, and enough land for the garden and a home with a greenhouse to face south. He found it all in Cosby and recognized the 20+ bare acres as the place. They bought and built their home with a greenhouse that spans most of the front of the house, facing south. It is lovely. And since both Bills have a real interest in horticulture and gardens they hit is off and went about the property chatting about stuff related to it. Karen and I visited and caught up. After a lovely visit of several hours Bill took us up the Foothills Highway, part of the park in Cosby. We stopped at the pull off where they go with folding chairs to watch meteor showers. Pretty neat. Then we headed back to Newport--Bill went to Ruby Tuesday and I ate in here. Still haven't used the Jacuzzi and not sure I will--maybe in the morning. Check out isn't til 11. I can't do it in the evening--just too tired. I hate not to make use of it, but I'm happy we stopped to visit. There will be other Jacuzzis. Now, to write some post cards and watch some NCIS if it isn't a repeat. Bones, too. The paper and puzzle, a chapter or two and it is off to run through dreams with Mr Sandman. Don't know where we're headed tomorrow--across the state toward the West, I believe. Who know what we'll see along the way to explore. Tune in tomorrow night to find out. " til then--sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" KandB

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Day inTennessee--Day 4

Good Evening Trekkers from Newport,Tn Comfort Inn 7:40 PM I'm a bit late tonight but we had quite a busy day and when we got to our room at around 5 I was quite BUSHED! After watching The Five on Fox and reading USA Today, sort of, and discovering there is absolutely NOTHING I want to watch on TV tonight, I got my second wind and decided to bring you all up to date. According to my various individual interactions with a few of you, I find that a number are digging out from 24 hours, at least, of some pretty heavy snowfall. Betsy said she thought she'd gotten about 11 inches. It sounds like most of you were nestled all snug inside and did not have to go out in it. Feeling sympathetic toward my friend, Glen, who opted to return to Vt a few days ago after basking in the Florida warmth and sunshine for a few months. Bet you wish you'd prolonged your sojourn! It would also appear to be pretty cold in NM with possible snow there at the moment. I am hoping that my California friends are safe from the flooding going on there at the moment. And I'm also thinking of another running between meetings in San Diego--hope you weren't too exhausted this a.m. As for us, in our usual fashion, we started out to do one thing and wound up doing an entirely different thing! We left Bristol, Va around eight-thirty this morning and in a blink of an eye were in Bristol, Tn. Our plan was to head to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to which we've never been. However, in just a very few miles we saw a sign for Andrew Johnson's home. Quick as a wink, out came the map to see where it was in relation to us, still on I 81, and lo and behold Tn Rt 70 would, round curves banked as though part of a race track, and up and down hill and dale, take us right down to Greeneville. And Greeneville was still in the direction of the Park, so off we went. I took only a couple of pictures that I think probably give you a good idea of the rollicking ride through the boonies on two lanes. We apparently were driving too slowly for a kid in a souped up coupe, since he not only zoomed by us but also decided to s-curve his way between lanes in front of us, until he left us in his dust. Ah, youth, though we were sure we'd see him off the road or in a head-on sometime soon. Fortunately, for him, us and any unfortunate he may have encountered, our worries were for naught. We arrived in Greeneville a bit before 11 and reported to the Johnson homesite visitors' center. We first viewed a 15 minute video on Johnson's life, in which Fred Thompson, deceased Tennessee Senator and sometime actor, voiced Johnson's comments. Andrew Johnson began life in the Carolina's and when his mother was widowed, she apprenticed Andrew and his brother, William to a local tailor. Eventually, there was a falling out with the tailor and the boys broke their contract and wandered around the South before settling in Tennessee. At some point, Andrew married, set up a tailor shop, built a small house and started a family. Eventually, he entered politics, primarily in Greeneville, then into State government in Nashville and in time, became US Senator. He opposed secession and argued that it was Unconstitutional--which it was deemed to be--so there California!! He also opposed slavery and while he bought slaves--only two or three--he never sold any and he emancipated them before Lincoln did. He also as Governor, emancipated all Tennessee slaves. As the second term began he was Lincoln's Vice-President, a Democrat to Lincoln's Republican. They hoped to bring the government back in order and hoped to unite the country once the War ended. Lincoln was assassinated and suddenly, a Southern Democrat was President!!! Much of the turmoil that ensued seems to have some parallels today. He was impeached because he fired Lincoln's Secretary of War, Stanton, without Congressional approval. He missed conviction by only one vote. Once his term was over, he ran again for Senator from Tennessee--lost that time--but ran again and was elected. The only President ever to have been a Senator, been President and then re-elected to the Senate. ( I have to check that--seems to me Teddy Roosevelt did some fancy footwork, too, after he was President!) Unfortunately, Johnson never got the chance to run for President on his own merits, which he probably hoped to do, since he suffered a stroke shortly after returning to the Senate and died. Having learned all that, we then looked through the small museum, with artifacts from his time as President, and with his original tailor shop, preserved within a room of its own. As I purchased two postcards of an original painting showing him in his shop doorway--done in recent times--the young ranger said my Daddy painted that picture. Her name is Kendra Hinkle. Then across the street to his original home, where he lived with his wife and the first of his children. Here there are exhibits relating to his life before Washington. A family tree shows that he had three sons, only one married, all died without children before the age of 35 and two daughters, who married, bore children and from whom all of his descendants come. Then a drive a few blocks away brought us to the last home he had in Greeneville and the one that his sons and daughters and grandchildren grew in and in which the last of his children died. Stephanie, a young, very knowledgeable ranger took us through the home and filled in the stories of those children. One boy died in the War, his brother became horribly depressed and self-medicated with alcohol and laudanum. He died of an overdose, whether deliberately self-inflicted or not is unknown. The youngest died after these two at the age of 28. His widow inherited the house and much else but not wanting it, she put it up for auction. The other two girls, married with children, bought it all back. I noticed she is not buried in the family plot--but then, she did go on to marry a millionaire and is probably buried with him! From this home, we proceeded up a hill, high above the town and walked the final resting places of these people and many of their more recent family members. The site is the center of what has become a National Cemetery. As we came down the hill we turned back into Greeneville intending to pick up 321 South toward the Smoky Mountains. Our plan was to continue to Sevierville and look for a motel and do the park tomorrow. In Newport, we needed to pick-up rt 411, but there is a spot on the map where 321, I 40 and several other roads form a nexus hard to untangle--and on the other side there is 411. All of this takes place in Newport. Needless to say, I got us continuing on 321, which goes through very small towns to Gatlinburg--probably no motels along the way. So back to the nexus, where I thought the combo route 70/25 would tie us up with 411. Bill adamantly disagreed and insisted on continuing out of town, over the railroad tracks, a U-turn, back over the tracks and a turn on a road that would take us to a truck route to I 40. which either went over or under 411. Imagine my glee, when he did all that and the road he turned on took us to 70/25!! You drive, Bill and leave the navigating to me, please. In short time we were on 411, rounded a curve and there before us, the home of Jay Bush and Duke!!! Well, it goes without saying, we had to stop! The champagne of baked beans, Duke, Jay--OMG So in we went--a delightful 20 minute film about the family ( do you remember Stokely string beans?? Well, that's how the Bushes got going in canned vegetables. Stokely hired them to can their tomatoes. From there, they expanded the business and started canning vegetables themselves. The beans have only been around since the 1990's!) Besides the history of the business they also discussed the processing of the beans--they are cooked after they have been canned and sealed!!! It was a delightful film but Jay and Duke were only at the start with replays of all the times Duke tried to sell the secret family recipe. Then, there was a museum. At the end, one of the family takes pictures of the visitors--gratis and asks how many you would like. After he took the shot, he asked me to look and see if I liked it--he would redo it. My goodness, Bill is smiling and he and the fellow said it was because we were told to give us that famous baked bean grin! I asked for one picture--he insisted I take two. By the time we were finished, it seemed foolish to go on, so we back tracked the five miles to Newport--after I called for the reservation in the Bush parking lot. For $75 dollars plus tax we could have a room with a Jacuzzi. YUP! Though both of us were too tired to use it tonight. As a matter of fact, Bill has been asleep since 8! Then, we roamed the now familiar routes in and about Newport to find a restaurant that appealed. Ruby Tuesday for steak. We ordered medium rare, it came out almost raw--the manager took back the steaks to cook a bit more. We ate our sides. The steaks didn't come back and we were finished our sides. Then the waitress brought us two new full meals--he didn't even return our original steaks. I was floored. The steaks were great but we were too full to eat the seconds on the sides. I felt really badly--I hate wasting food. But, I just had no desire to bring home rice and steamed broccoli. As I said it was almost five by the time we got to the room and brought luggage in, etc. We've reserved the room for tomorrow night, too. We may go to the Park and return here--it is only 30 miles away. I'd like to just veg here tomorrow--I'm feeling pretty tired. Didn't sleep really well last night. Haven't gotten into the rhythm yet and Bill seems to have pushed us to get here really fast. On the other hand, it is supposed to rain on Wednesday and the Park wouldn't be much fun in the rain. Oh, well, we'll play it by ear. Seems to work well for us. So, now it is almost 9. Think I'll read a bit and then turn in. Hope you enjoy the history and pix that go with it. Until next time--be warm, be safe and sleep well. KandB

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday between Hagerstown, Md and Bristol, Va

Good evening, Trekkers! Rain, heavy at times, took us most of the way into Virginia. Riding on an Interstate is not very stimulating so I found it entertaining to observe the various forms water towers take. Here in the South, it is all about the county -- I always knew what county I resided in whether in New York or Vermont but it never would occur to me to tell someone who asked that I hailed from Orange County or Saratoga County but in much of the country that is the identifying feature of someone's roots. So, at any rate, around here the water tower or the license plate will declare for the world to see, where you're at or where you're from. As usual, cloud formations intrigued me. I was excited when a found a tiny patch of blue that might indicate clearing. And, riding in the Shendahoah Valley, one cannot ignore the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains. This is really one of my favorite parts of the East--this Virginia area. It is so full of history. The little strip of West Virginia that cuts across between Maryland and Virginia. The Valley through which there was so much military movement in the Civil War. And, of course, the Civil War battlefields. Staunton was the home of Woodrow Wilson. Poplar Forest wasn't too far away on the other side of the mountains. In years past we have crisscrossed the area visiting so many of the sights and sites. It was nice to remember those times. Yet, between the weather and the monotony of the drive, I found myself dozing off for 15 minutes or so here and there. Also spent a little time texting with Betsy. I like that--it is so immediate and yet, the message is there waiting for you, if you don't have service. It certainly sounds as though we made the right decision to avoid Buffalo and Erie etc. Snow started at home around 1230 and Bets said it was really coming down and it was windy. We are farther south than we need to be since we aren't due in Alabama until Friday. But, it gives us time to backtrack to Kentucky for Smoky Pig and also time to go to places we have not had time for in the past. We never have to worry about finding things to do, since we are open to just about anything and love to explore. We only stopped once for gas today, though we covered almost 400 miles again. We got regular in Harrisonburg, Va fo 1.999/gal. It was 2.295 in Saratoga when we left yesterday. We stayed in Bristol about 7 years ago--in the same motel. Back then we were at a loss to find a place to eat. Not anymore, there is a plethora of all the major chain restaurants. We opted for Buffalo Wild Wings. I had five with Asian Zing seasoning and five with Bourbon Honey BBQ seasoning. Blue cheese and carrots of course for dipping. Bill went for 10 with hot sauce, blue cheese and celery--he is such a purist. I had a wonderful Chocolate stout brewed here in Bristol. Really delicious but too chocolately for more than one. So switched to another local brew, a light Scottish ale. Bill had Bud light. Our barmaid was named Betsy and she is 30. She is a liberal but really cute about it. In speaking of our Betsy she said that she thought they would be Besties--Betsy squared. What a nice young woman. It seemed so strange to hear Bill call out " Betsy " when he wanted another beer. Funny, too, when I thought she'd given me another stout instead of the ale. They are both fairly dark. She said, no, it is the ale. I said that I wasn't criticizing or complaining--she laughed and said don't worry--I have a mother! Wise guy. Our Betsy would have loved it. It is only 530 and we are in for the night: fed, I'm in my nightgown, ready to read until Masterpieces start on PBS and then I'll be glued to the TV til 11 and sleep. Don't think I'll wear a sweater tomorrow. By day's end the temperature was 70 and sunny. We opened the sunroof for the first time this year. Glorious. It appears as though the link for Snapfish is working for many of you so that is how I think I will send the photos each night. Will try to use the subject line so that you can see the pix in order. Feel free to email any questions and or comments. I check in the morning usually but always check in the evening--if the wifi is good. So, until tomorrow, keep warm and safe those who are experiencing the snow storm. To all of you have a good night. KandB

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Day 2---From Saratoga to Hagerstown, Md

Hello from Hagerstown, Maryland 4:18 pm EST 65 degrees F and sunny! Hardly any snow left on the ground-more bare than covered. Lady at the desk said it was 4 degrees yesterday morning--so who knows if I'll wear sandals and a blouse or sneakers and a sweater tomorrow. Got on the road yesterday morning at around 10, stopped to gas up in Wilder, headed over to the bank to make sure the new chip card works in the ATM and then over Killington and down Rt 4 to Ft Edward, hit the Northway and arrived at my sister's at about 230 or so. We did stop at Tanya's Stockyard Café in Kingsbury to eat some lunch. If any of you are ever tempted to try it--do NOT--the food is awful. Even the cole slaw which is usually yummy at these cafes and diners was terrible--I think the guy used a whole bottle of vinegar in it. If you do venture in, and it is horrible--just remember the Pond Palate Police warned you. Had a nice easy dinner of cheese, pepperoni and triscuits followed by franks and beans with Barb and Damian, the pooch. Good to catch up--don't remember the last time we've actually seen Barb. This is always our chance to exchange Christmas gifts and that is always fun. Up early and on the road by 830 this morning.Stopped for gas on Rte 50. $2.35/gal, I think but need to check my log book which is in the car to make sure that is right. Having watched the weather last night, it appears that Buffalo and environs are due a heavy snow storm tomorrow. Not wanting to get bogged down or snowed in, we changed our planned route. Headed down to Binghamton, New York on I 88 and then I 81 at the Pennsylvania border. I dozed off shortly before that junction but woke up at the Pa welcome center. Went back to sleep and woke up just past Wilkes Barre. Hence no pictures from that leg of the journey. But those who have traveled with us over the last seven journeys have probably seen pictures from that area before. Judging by what I was awake for, things haven't changed very much along this way. It is actually kind of nice to be taking this path again, since we have been going by way of Buffalo for the last three trips and this is a good change of scenery. Got off the Interstate in Ravine, Pa. Can you imagine telling someone you are from Ravine??? And, believe me, it IS in a pretty deep ravine. Near enough to the highway, though, to charge $ 2.65/gal. And I KNOW that figure is correct, because a few more miles down the road at Love's it was $2.45/gal.Betsy called us when we were around Carlisle, Pa and the temperature was 48. We, of course, gloated about it. Not realizing that not very much later we would truly have something to crow about // 65 degrees!!! We had a terrific driving day--not much traffic--even around Harrisburg, Scranton and Wilkes Barre--areas that are usually awful. One of the reasons we gave up this drive was the congestion and craziness in those places. The weather was glorious--sunny and no wind. Little hawks peppered the limbs of trees, the weather was so nice and the fields so open and green--good hunting weather for these feathered predators. Pulled into the Clarion Inn and Suites and upon seeing all the cars, motorcycles and large groups of men in their black leather bearing their colors, we figured there was no room at the Inn. We figured correctly--so we are in the Quality Inn and Suites across the road, where a few of the spill-overs are staying. They are the USMC motor cycle club--all looking quite vintage--and hippy dippy--well not all hippy dippy but most all vintage. LOL We fit right in age-wise, anyway. So having stayed up with Barb until 1 am and probably drinking a bit more vino than necessary, I'm a bit tired. Staying in and eating some of the larder we brought. Bill is already getting started on Mexican at the restaurant next door. I'm going to curl up with my new book and just veg. Until next time, batten down the hatches and turn up the heat or start the fire. Keep safe, keep warm, see you Trekkers --that's this year's name for the group--Travel Trekkers--tomorrow! Nighty-night KandB

Friday, February 3, 2017

All The World's a Stage--and Here the Audience Get to Be Witness in Death

Witness in Death (In Death, #10)Witness in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb never fails to please me. Her characters are so real, from the heroine, the vulnerable but tough Detective Eve Dallas, to her slightly overweight, insecure but highly talented aide, Peabody, to her incredibly sexy, handsome, rich, Irish, supportive husband, Rourke and all the peripheral characters in the plot. The action moves, the mystery complex, the solution often a shock. This tenth installment does not disappoint.
Rourke manages to get Eve to dress to the nines and attend an opening performance of a new play at his elegant theatre. The plot is a mystery and by intermission, Eve knows that a murder will be committed and has determined who the murderer will be. Rourke refuses to confirm or deny but when the play resumes a murder--a real one --IS committed on the stage in front of a full house. The lead actor, playing a deplorable, is actually stabbed to death with a real knife that has been substituted for the prop knife that has a retractable blade.
Immediately, Eve in her designer gown, reverts to Dallas and gets the show on the road--the investigative show, that is. As always there are red herrings, convoluted associations, many reasons for the victim to be murdered and lots of people who would have wanted him dead. To compound the dead ends and run arounds, seemingly unconnected the head stagehand commits suicide--or was he murdered, too?
Keeps one going until the very end, when things are pulled together but are not what would be expected and, as usual in this future New York City of late 21st century, somehow are worse than anticipated.

View all my reviews