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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Crickett and I want to wish all our family, friends, and blog followers a joyous Christmas and a blessed and prosperous new year. It's hard to believe another year has passed, but this year has been a good year, and one we won't soon forget.

We have a yearly tradition of venturing to the NC mountains every year in search of that perfect Christmas tree and this year was no exception. We made the trip this year with our daughter, Pam, her husband, Rick along with our grandchildren, Bailey, Zach and our grand-dog, Cooper.  We went to the Twin Pines Nursery in Newland, NC and were successful in our quest! After getting our trees we went to the Mason Jar Cafe in Newland for lupper, which was pretty good but in no hurry to return. On the way back down the mountains, we were treated to a beautiful sunset that was one of the most unusual I've seen. The whole sky was illuminated with beautiful pastel colors of all shades and was impressive against the silhouette of the mountains.

We do have more travel plans on the drawing board for the coming year and are looking forward to making more memories on the road exploring our beautiful country.

Crickett and I with our tree behind us. We had to cut about 2 foot off the bottom of the tree as it was too big but couldn't find another we liked as well.

Crickett and I with our grandson, Zachary.

Our grandson, Zach, our daughter, Pam, our granddaughter, Bailey, and our grand-dog, Cooper.
Our tree after we finished decorating it.

One of our favorite ornaments. The ornament in the top right hand corner is one I had when I was a child, It's about 60 years old!
Stunning sunset we were treated to. Most unusual.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On the way home

Well first off, my apologizes to our family and friends who follow our blog for being slack and not posting in almost a month. We are back home in Shelby, NC and trying to get things back in some kind of order. My last post was in Memphis, Tn where we had a great time at the Tom Sawyer campground on the Mississippi. When we left Memphis, our next stop was Nashville, Tn for three days. We camped at the Seven Points Corp of Engineers Campground on Percy Priest Lake about ten miles east of Nashville. This is one of the better campgrounds we've enjoyed and at $11.00/night with the old fart's pass, was quite a bargain. The only negative was no sewer hookup, which is the same for most Corp campgrounds but was no issue for us as we were only there three days. It started raining when we left Memphis and rained all the way to Nashville and didn't stop the entire time we were there. On top of the rain, it was cold and dreary and not fit weather to be outside. The only thing we did while in Nashville was to visit the American Archaeology store which we had seen on American Pickers. The store was exactly as it appears on TV and was interesting but couldn't find anything in our price range that piqued our interest. The rest of our time in Nashville was spent riding around seeing the sites and eating out.
      Our next stop was Sevierville, Tn near Pigeon Forge. We stayed at Riverside RV Park and had a nice pull through site with full hook ups for $32/night. Not bad for a decent park in a good location. The leaf colors were pretty close to peak and we felt certain the area would be crowded, which it was. Our first destination was Cades Cove, which we haven't been to in many years. The drive there and through the park provided spectacular leaf color. We did get to see quite a lot of wildlife there including a mama bear and her two cubs, wild turkeys, and a herd of deer. We rode the entire loop through the cove and suffered through the bumper to bumper traffic. The next day we traveled Highway 441 through the Smokey Mountain National Park to Cherokee, NC.  We visited the casino while there and made a contribution to the Cherokee fund and headed back across the mountain to our home on wheels in Sevierville.  As soon as we got to the east entrance of the Smokey Mountain NP, we spotted a large herd of elk grazing in a large meadow beside the highway. We, along with five thousand other folks stopped to shoot a few pictures. This part of the highway is four lanes and they had the inside lane blocked off for folks to stop and take pictures so I assume this must be a regular occurrence. We counted 22 elk in this herd with several large bull elk.
          We've had another great trip seeing parts of our country that were new to us and have made many new friends along the way and visited with several long time friends. We especially enjoyed having our granddaughter, Bailey, with us the first part of the trip where we made wonderful memories. We are truly blessed to be able to travel as we have and look forward to many more travels. Lastly, thanks to our family, friends and followers for traveling along with us and your many comments.
       Here is a summary of this trip: We were on the road about 16 weeks, we traveled in excess of 9,000 miles, we traveled through 15 states, took over 4,000 photographs and there were over 4,000 page views on the blog.

Entrance to Riverside RV Park in Sevierville, Tn.

Our Site for 5 nights
The mountains were alive with color. This was taken on the way to Cades Cove.

The yellow leaves were especially pretty.

This shot was taken at the I-40 rest area near the NC Tennessee state line. If I'm not mistaken, that's a maple tree.

Colorful leaves in Cades Cove.

Mama bear with her 2 cubs. Needless to say, traffic was backed up quite a distance. I took this shots from inside the truck, but there were several "smart" folks who approached the bears taking pictures. A ranger showed up and ran the people back to their vehicles after they received a scolding!

We were lucky in that they crossed the road right in front of us, so we were able to have a good view.

This is the "new" Methodist Church that was built in 1902. The original church dated back to 1820. The church cemetery is to the right in this picture with many graves dating back to the 1800's. 

Inside the Cades Cove Methodist Church.

There was an old piano in the church that still worked. Crickett played a little to see if she remembered how.

Pretty tree in church cemetery.

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church founded in 1839. This building was built in 1915.

Serviceman's grave  in church cemetery. Notice the coins on the grave marker. A coin left on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a message to the deceased soldier's family that someone else has visited the grave to pay respect. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited. A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together, while a dime means you served with him in some capacity. By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the soldier when he was killed.This tradition is more common in National Cemeteries, such as Arlington National Cemetery.

View of back of church and cemetery.

This RV was parked in the church parking lot. I'm not sure if it's considered a class A or class C. It was from from Germany. Pretty unusual to see a foreign RV here in the states.

We saw a flock of turkeys in this meadow, but they're not visible in this photo.
These deer were actually further away than they look here. Shot was taken at full zoom and then some serious cropping to get this close.

Shot of Gatlinburg from one of the overlooks on the way back from Cades Cove.

Herd of elk we came across on the way back from Cherokee.

After leaving Cherokee we came back across the mountain on US441 and hit stopped traffic just after passing the crest of the mountains. I surmised there was some wildlife spotted and folks were going slow to take pictures. Well, evidently that wasn't the case as traffic was this way all the way back to Gatlinburg. I could have walked back faster than traffic was moving. My only explanation was that there was more traffic than the road could handle.

Traffic behind us. Notice anything unusual about this shot? It looks like the traffic is on the wrong side of the road, but is actually correct because this picture was taken in my rear view mirror, which  reversed the image. It took us over 2 hours to get back down the mountain.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I'm happy to report we're alive and well and have surfaced in West Memphis, Arkansas. We arrived here last Friday after a good trip from Branson. Our last three days in Branson were kind of busy where we went to the see the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Ar, The Lettermen show at the Andy Williams Theatre, and the Pressley Country Jamboree. We had a great 10 days in Branson, but we were beginning to get "hitch itch", so we were ready to move to our next destination which brings us to where we are now, Tom Sawyer Campground in W. Memphis, Ar, which is right across the river and state line from Memphis, Tn. This campground is well known among RVer's and is very popular due to it being right on the riverfront. This is one of those campgrounds where one can be perfectly content to just stay in the park and do nothing. We've enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the mighty Mississippi since being here and don't have any major plans to do much else until we pull out Saturday. There is no shortage of activity on the river with countless barges being pushed by tugboats up and down the river as well as an occasional paddle wheeler. The campground has installed benches on the rivers edge and has been a popular spot for us. There have been several floods here at the campground, which is hard to imagine because the water level is at least 15 feet below the top of the bank. In fact, the last flood was so high they've erected a sign on the bath house showing the high water mark, some 12 feet above the campground  level, which would make it almost 30 feet higher than what it is now.
             Monday, we went out to dinner at Corky's Barbecue in Memphis that was recently featured on the Travel Channel. We thought we'd see how it stacked up against the "cue" back home in Shelby. Crickett had their chicken and I had their barbecue pork dinner. Let me be fair and say it was good, but to me it was not what I was expecting. The smoked flavor came through, but the meat was coarse and stringy, nothing like our cue back home. I'd give it a 6 on a 10 scale. Crickett said she wasn't blown away by their yard bird either, and she knows her chicken! A worthwhile experience, but in no hurry to go back. We've heard a lot of talk here in the park about Rendezvous Barbecue and may go check it out before we leave.  
         The plan right now is to leave here Saturday and possibly stop in Nashville for a few days and then stop a few days in Pigeon Forge before heading home. We've sure missed our family and friends and looking forward to seeing them all soon. 

Entrance into Tom Sawyer RV Park. Check out the young Tom Sawyer silhouette on the right gate.
Sign on the highway showing where to turn into the park.
Our first site, 99 right on the river for 3 nights.  We've had to move 2 more times to be able to stay here, but is worth it.

High water mark on bath house. One unusual feature of this park is the washers and dryers are free to their guests. Only park I've ever seen that at. Most get $2/ load to wash and $1/dry. We've got a washer/dryer in the rig so we don't have to worry about it.
One of many benches the park has installed on the river's edge. It's about 15 feet down the bank to the water.

I caught this paddle wheeler going down the river. I darkened the corners and softened the edges trying to make it look like an old photo.

Bet most of you folks out there in Blogger Land have never seen the sun rise on the Mississippi, so here's how it looks!

I took this shot to show the proximity of the campsites to the river. The riverfront sites are $40/night and the second row back, where we are now,  are $32/night. The river front sites have a large concrete pad whereas the second row is gravel.

If you look slightly left and above center, you can see what looks to be silos, which is actually a facility where they load grain onto the barges. Close ups of that operation will follow.

For those of you who don't recognize our back side, this is Crickett and I.  It don't take a whole lot to make us happy.  It don't get much better than this!

Pretty good sized tugboat pushing barges down the river.

This shot and the next two are panoramic shots I took while playing with the camera.

Panoramic view of our section of the campground. There are three sections in all.

The banks below the campground have been covered in rocks to help control erosion.

These shots were at full zoom. This facility loads grain onto barges. Notice how low this barge is sitting in the water at the rear, which is where the soybeans are loaded first. You can see  dust coming from the front doors  of the barge as its' being loaded.

Here, the barge is almost full and is sitting level in the water. Now, notice the difference of the height of the barge being loaded and the one in front of it. The one in front is empty and therefore sits much higher in the water. At the present river level they are loading the barges where they are drafting 10 1/2 feet, which means there is 10 1/2 feet below the water! Each barge is 195' long, 60' wide and 14' deep. They're loading 60,000 bushels of grain on each barge. Once loaded, they will be joined with as many as 30 other barges to form what is called a tow, where they will be pushed down the river to the gulf, where they will be shipped to markets overseas.  To me, it's an incredible feat for the tugs to be able to push and steer this mass, especially considering they are drafting 10 1/2 feet of water. They told me they load the barges to draft 12 feet when the river level is higher.

Two tows and tugs going in opposite directions.

 Close up of front of the tow. The flag is for the captain of the tug to be able to see where the front of the tow is. The bridge of the tug sits well above the barges, but is some 1200 feet, or almost 1/4 mile from the front.

These tugs are powered by multiple diesel engines. Some have as much as 11,000 horsepower. Check out the Memphis skyline in the background. The bridge you can see is the one on I-55 over the Mississippi.