Summer 2017 Vacation – July 24 – Day 5

After a torrential rain storm last night and getting in after midnight we were both a little tired this morning. We have a long, flat ride ahead of us as we travel from Denison, TX to Lubbock, TX.

In fact, I was incredibly tired after a few hours of driving and had a hard time paying attention while I drove. The road is mostly unremarkable through this part of the country and it’s easy to let the monotony take over and get very distracted. I finally had to stop at a small rest stop somewhere on route 82 outside of Lubbock just to regroup. We are only about an hour away from our destination.

Looking back at a road less traveled.

The wind is blowing very stiff across the plains as various thunderstorms roll through the area. It’s still stormy in Texas today as you can see above. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the rain.

7th inning stretch.

We really weren’t going very far so our thought was that we would find a hotel, ask them where their favorite place to eat was and then ask the waiter if they could go one place in Lubbock where would that place be.

So we go to the Arbor Inn & Suites which would turn out to be one of our favorite places to stay this trip. I don’t normally write reviews but I did write one for them. So far, it was the most comfortable, well run, quiet places we stayed. The Internet was fast and reliable and we were able to wash our clothes for free.

We asked the people at the desk where we should eat which they recommended a TexMex place named Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant.

The service at Abuelo’s was excellent. We wanted to sit outside and listen to a band while we eat but it turns out they don’t serve the restaurant food out there. The band was also really loud so we headed in to sit in a booth.

For some reason lately Mexican food just seem like too much, no matter how much I eat. Tonight being no exception they deliver this huge plate of food after eating too many chips. I did my best to clean my plate but only got about half of it down.

While we were there we asked our waiter where we should go before the sun went down. More specifically, if he only had 1-2 hours where would he go? He said to head out to the twin lakes of Buffalo Springs and Ransom Canyon.

It is totally out in the boonies from Lubbock which is already out in the boonies itself. Ironically we tried to stay at a place near here named the Harvey House that is situated in an old converted train station and museum just south of Lubbock. They didn’t have any rooms for the night so we couldn’t stay there.

We ended up going to Ransom Canyon and driving around the lake. It’s an ungated community with beautiful houses on or near the lake. But there wasn’t much there and it didn’t seem to be a place for the public to hang out. Which is why I wondered why the waiter would send us out here. Who knows.

Both lakes are situation in a canyon and have interesting topology in an otherwise unremarkable local.

On the way to Ransom Canyon I saw these big electric generators situated at the location of a coal fired electrical plant. In order to take photos of them I had to essentially climb a fence to get it out of the way of the camera.

Wind turbine at coal fire plant in Lubbock, TX
Wind turbine at coal fire plant in Lubbock, TX
Wind turbine at coal fire plant in Lubbock, TX

All of the wind turbines were spinning presumably making electricity. I hadn’t really mentioned wind power but it’s very noticeable how much of a commitment various states, schools and businesses are making with this technology. They have dotted the landscape as we’ve driven on all these back roads up to now.

After taking the pictures we headed back to the hotel, finished washing our clothes, watching a bit of a movie while I worked on this blog then got ready for tomorrow.

We’ve decided to go to Big Bend National Park tomorrow. It’s been a while since I’ve been there and Gloria has never been. I’ve never stayed there over night so this should be interesting. They don’t really have an “address” and I can’t remember how to get there. We’ll sort that out in the morning or on the drive.

Gloria is starting to heal. Thank goodness for the help of those doctors to get her skin feeling good again.

Day 5 is complete. I’ve just about stopped thinking about all my responsibilities.

Summer 2017 Vacation – July 23 – Day 4

Today was a long-ish day.

We got up when we wanted to this morning. I left the blinds closed so that Gloria could get some sleep thinking that her poison ivy was probably sapping her strength. When she got up I asked her how things were going and she just seemed miserable with the ivy outbreak. So today we will visit urgent care to get her some relief.

We left Mountain View (not to be confused with Mountain Home as I so often do) around 11 am. We then bee-line it to Conway where there is an urgent care place that can see her.

Urgent care isn’t so urgent. They keep certain hours and it’s a bit of a “snails pace” on the inside. But we did get in and she got a shot that seems to be helping her. And some meds too. None of it she likes to take but in this case it’s probably best. Some people really have a rough time with the plant and she is definitely one of those people. I think we waited a couple of hours but once she got in it was pretty quick. She wanted to leave before they saw her … but we didn’t budge.

Thankfully, she got the help she needed.

The goal in Little Rock for me was to stop by and see my old high school friend, James, who is selling his dad’s 1940’s Piper Cub Sport and then visit another Virginia friend of mine who is living in Little Rock some these days.

After getting done with urgent care we were running late in the day and headed out to North Little Rock to look at the Piper Cub and have a very short visit with James at the NLR airport.

1940’s Piper Cub Sport

There’s so much to like about this little bird and so much to think about in the coming weeks. I’m in quite a tough spot on this one.

After leaving NLR we had to motor on to Texas where we would spend the night in Denison, Texas. We wanted to spend the night on Lake Texoma but couldn’t work that out on the drive there. We wouldn’t get into Denison until after midnight. But it was a long but pleasant drive into the Arkansas countryside and on into Oklahoma and Texas.

Right up until we get near Texas when the skies opened up and it rained like mad. After checking the weather ahead we learned there was no tornado or thunderstorm warnings, just rain. So we pressed on. But, man, did it rain! We had to slow down to 35 mph for part of that just to keep moving. It was pitch black, of course, making it even more difficult to see. But we made it with some persistence no more worse for wear. Just a little tired.

Gloria is doing much better now. I think the medications are starting to do their thing but her skin is still very upset and probably will be for days to come.

Paramotoring

This looks like something I could get into:

Pit stop into a McDonalds

Tucker Gott has been fun to follow the last few month. He doesn’t do anything crazy or break any laws. Lately I have seen a ton of paramotor activity around northern Virginia. Which has me wondering all kinds of thoughts about this activity!

You can check out his YouTube channel here.

Let Me Be – Sara Niemietz (Gifted)

Some people are very gifted. Sara Niemietz is one of them.

I’ve been following Sara for the last 6 or so months and am amazed at her singing talent and mature sound. I have a funny feeling we will be hearing more from her in the future.

If she comes to your area it might be fun to go see her!

This is her web site: http://www.saraniemietz.com/. This is her YouTube channel.

Enjoy!

 

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Summer 2017 Vacation – July 22 – Day 3

Today we leave the “Land between the Lakes” and head to Mountain View via Buffalo Point, Arkansas.

Every time I get in a car and head west I don’t feel officially into my trip until I cross the Mississippi River at some point. These old bridges are in the process of being replaced one at a time with much larger and wider bridges for the vehicles of the future. They are quite tiny and seem fragile in contrast of the river itself.

Crossing the Mississippi River at the confluence of the Ohio River.

Although I don’t have a picture of one of the new suspension bridges they are all very wide and ornate absent the truss structure you see above. Most of these bridges have to let the tall barges go under then without being lifted so the new ones are very tall in comparison of these old ones. I like the contrast of the metal truss with nature. Soon they will be gone. A new contrast will arrive.

We haven’t taken the most direct route to where we are going. Since we were going right by the Mammoth Spring I thought it would be good to stop by and see if it had run out of water yet. Nope.

9 million gallons an hour at the Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.

It’s still producing many millions of gallon an hour where it’s been doing so for as long as history has written. The original story of an Indian kicking open the hole where the water streamed from is a bit hokey but makes for a good story.

 

The generator at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas.

The generator has not operated since 1972, only 45 years ago. The technology in the building could probably be refurbished and restarted without much money or effort. There must be a reason why they are not restarting it other than that. 9 million gallons of water energy would be a pretty efficient public use of generating electricity. Not as efficient as nuclear fuel but we know that won’t happen.

The waterfall at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas.

When we arrive at the park it was 100ºF but sitting at the base of the falls was around 75ºF with a cool mist spraying you in the face. It was a nice break from the heat because there was absolutely no wind blowing to help cool things off.

Looking for rocks at the bend of the Buffalo River at Buffalo Point.

In our lifetime together we’ve not had much of a chance to spend time at the Buffalo River. We always claim that we will one day. Yet we come and go after we spend an hour or two there. Buffalo Point is very easy to reach from the highway so somehow we always end up there. There must be a million rocks on the beach there. She found one that looked like a heart and then had a heart imprinted on the top.

We got back in the car and headed on to Mountain View where we spent the night at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. The cost of a room there is under $70/night still. They are very comfortable and accessible rooms. We arrived late and went to sleep pretty soon after getting there.

But before we did we spent about an hour in the “square” listening to random people playing bluegrass music. This is a terrible video but it’ll give you the idea of what it’s like at Mountain View in the evenings.

Tomorrow we will address the poison ivy problem head on. It has not gotten any better.

 

 

Summer 2017 Vacation – July 21 – Day 2

Gloria’s poison ivy hasn’t improved and, to me, seems to be getting worse. She says she’s fine and wants to motor on. So we motor on …

We made a fairly short journey to Kenlake State Park in Kentucky. We had only an inkling of an idea that we might rent a boat because we thought we’d arrive too late to go out on the lake. But that is something we’ve talked about doing since we started this journey.

When we got to the lodge and checked into our cabin we decided to go to the marina and see what might be available for the evening or in the morning. We went down with only the clothes on our backs thinking that we would simply be planning since it was a bit of a holiday weekend and they were expecting crowds. We never thought there might be a boat available.

When we asked about the boats it turns out they were available so we rented a pontoon boat for a few hours right there on the dock. After a “safety review and checklist” we headed out on to the lake in our boat to look for a cove of calm water for a swim. You see, we have no bathing suits so this is going to need to be G rated as far as the eye can see. Off we go to see what kind of trouble we can get into in the middle of the day. Turns out no one cares much about two 50-somethings swimming together in a big river.

I’ve been to this location before but stayed in a different state park which is closer to the new bridges they have constructed over the river. These bridges are long and massive, much different than the old ones. They took the new engineering project seriously.

New bridge – Land Between the Lakes

Not far into the channel is a nesting pair of bald eagles. We didn’t get close enough to get a great picture of them but close enough to know what they were. They have built their nest on a channel marker. I alway like seeing bald eagles in the wild like this. Nothing like Alaska but very cool for Kentucky.

Bald Eagle Nesting

This evening we attended a local restaurant that has all the southern comfort foods you would ever want. It was called the Pond Restaurant where we both got catfish, a salad, hush puppies and fries. Of course, sweet tea. You have to water down the sugar in Kentucky. When they say “sweet tea” they really mean “brown sugar water”.

We head back to the lodge where there is a recreation of President Truman’s history by a local actor dressed in period attire and speaking as if he were Truman. That was more interesting than I thought it would be. He certainly gave it his all but had to read off queue cards a bit. That’s OK. Presidential history is  a lot to cover in an hour.

Back to the cabin for some sleep. Gloria is in bed early. The poison ivy is not getting better. You can tell her skin and body is in overdrive trying to sort it out.

Summer 2017 Vacation – July 20 – Day 1

We are off on our journey west!

We don’t have much of a plan other than to drive across the United States without, as much as possible, getting on an major Interstate highway. Our destination is Ruidoso, New Mexico for a Westerman family reunion. This reunion has been in the planning stages for many months, if not a full year.

Our route today took us from home to Lewisburg, Ky. We initially traveled on a route well traveled for us to Front Royal, VA then on 55 to Strasburg, VA where we picked up 48 into the interior of West Virginia not far west of Strasburg.

Route 48 is a southern parallel road to the famous route 50 with the difference being it’s a divided highway through the picturesque mountains littered with wind farm after wind farm. It’s an “easier” drive than route 50 since it is more “meander” and less “switch back”.

Route 48 turns into route 219 at Thomas, WV. Thomas is a place I want to revisit when I have more time. I love the old down feel of this Appalachian area. Thomas is adjacent to the Monongahela National Forest public land area, close to the Canaan Valley State Park and resort where I’ve stayed and also close to Seneca Rocks, WV. All of these places I have ridden my motorcycle on numerous occasions as well as flown a plane in and around many times. It’s such a nice part of the country where, it seems to me, people don’t want to travel. The lightly traveled part of this country makes it appealing to me.

We picked up I-79 near Stonewall Jackson Lake, another place I want to visit. There are not many lakes near where I live. Rivers, yes. Lakes, no. There were lots of people in the area that appeared to be readying to spend a weekend at the lake. Or maybe that’s just the way they dress on any given day.

We picked up I-64 in the city of Charleston, WV and headed on west towards Lexington, KY. It was the only way to get to where we wanted to be. I spent time learning more about Python programming from a set of online courses I’m taking while Gloria worked on her computer when she wasn’t doing this:

Gloria sleeping. Body in overload from poison ivy.

It turned out she did a lot of sleeping. Unfortunately she picked up some poison ivy near home and I’m sure it’s draining her. She has to be uncomfortable and is just not showing it. It’s just aweful to be so allergic to this plant that grows everywhere you look near our home.

What neither of us knew is that it was about to get worse.

Little man.

I don’t pretend to understand why certain creatures come into my life at certain times but it does seem to happen in a way that makes you wonder how everything is connected. Lately I’m working to connect more.

Don’t take my picture!

Mongrel is Olivia’s boy cat. He’s staying at our house for an extended period of time. He’s really a city cat since he was found somewhere in Richmond, Virginia a couple of years ago. But he sure has become accustomed to living in the country lately. To other humans he’s a sweet boy. Other cats, not so much. We are working on the latter.

Since moving here to our home we’ve bonded, so to speak. Pretty much anywhere I go you can find him. He likes to go on long, wandering walks with me at any time of the day as long as it’s not raining, too windy or too hot or cold. Wet paws and wind are not his thing.

He has striking yellow-green eyes in contrast to his completely black fur that stand out in any color photograph of him. If I thought he might have a favorite thing to do it would be climbing trees. All the way to the top of the trees!

Green eyes

If you know me you know I’m a bit reserved and quiet. My relationship with Mongrel is the same. It’s OK to be in each other’s presence and not say a word. Just be. He’s the only animal around me that doesn’t require any kind of communication and still be OK with the silence. We get along that way well.

Worn plumb out.

Pretty much every day we go on 3 walks together. The one in the evening is generally the longest. We often take an hour and just go where nature takes us. Often it’s on a nap, in the driveway. It doesn’t really matter. As long as we are around each other somehow it’s all good. He doesn’t like the night so it’s best to come on back home before it gets too dark where he will catch moths, fireflies and pester the rabbits, frogs and the like until he’s too tired to move.

Then off to bed to sleep all night long. He gets up the next morning, bounds out the door and we do it all over again. I like this part of our life here in the country.

Mongrel has taught me to slow down and enjoy my surroundings. Smell the flowers, grass and dirt. Listen to the sounds in the air, grass and trees.

Life is everywhere. You just have to connect.

Sunsets

Every sunset around here is nice. This time of the year they are always very pleasant. Generally the wind is calm and all of the animals are either getting ready to sleep or getting ready to stay up all night. I’m somewhere in between.

Sunset July 10, 2017

Generally every day I can I go out with Mongrel to watch the day turn into dusk. This day it was quiet. The temperature was cool in humid air. There was all kind of activity in the fields.

Intricate bird nest July 10, 2017

The parents of this nest have been very busy lately. They are working on a brood of 4-5 chicks up there. They seem to be relatively smart to build a nest up under a roof on the gazebo where we only frequent once a day. The only down side may be the day the fledglings try to fly. Hopefully Mongrel is distracted in another location that day.

We have a new guest at our home.

It’s quiet out here. Normally.

Until recently when we had this animal show up.

Our newest member of the family: Female red shoulder hawk.

She’s a noisy thing. Flying all around the property screeching as if asking for permission to be out of the nest.

We noticed it’s parent building a nest high in one of the tall trees in the background back in the spring. In the past week her downy feathers on her underside have turned into more stiff feathers. She’s still very noisy which I don’t think is going to change much in the coming weeks.

It’s been fun watching her in the binoculars. She’s quite the hunter. I’ve seen her with my own eyes catch a rabbit with the aid of both of her parents. If you look closely at her talons you will notice there is blood of some small critter there. Hopefully it’s not from one of our cats!

She moves from tower to pole in what appears to be her new favorite vantage point. We are harvesting the hay today which appears to be giving her unique opportunity to see what might be on the ground.

It’s best not to make any sudden moves if you are a small furry critter. As evidenced by this video.

It’s best to be a fairly large mammal with her around. A “furry mammal” as Helen told me when she was little.

She is a very active hunter and fun to watch do her thing.

 

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