S: BOGS Blog 2011 Part I
FC: BOGS Blog 2011 | Part 1
1: Posted on January 17, 2011 by bogsblog| 19 Comments Welcome to Barbara and Gretchenâ€™s blog. We sold our house and are headed for the highway in our RoadTrek Versatile 190. We knew she was meant for us because her license plate starts with 4GAB (for Gretchen and Barbara!). Naturally, we named her Gabby. Join us as we travel across the US for seven months, camping in national parks, visiting friends and family, and meeting Servas hosts. Our ETD is Jan 31. Come along for the ride! | Hello World! | In the Midst of Moving | Posted on January 28, 2011 by bogsblog| 2 Comments AAAAccccckkkkk! Escrow closes today. The house is a mess, Gabby is a mess, we’re dirty and dusty. Moving out after 17 years in a house isn’t pretty, but we’ll make our Monday deadline. Will miss spring and summer in the backyard, but new owners, Jake and Marina, will take good care of the place.
2: Posted on February 4, 2011 by bogsblog| 4 Comments Jan 31 – Gretchen The house stands empty We lock the door one last time Onto the highway Alright, I admit it wasn’t that smooth. I wrote this haiku in bed late at night while I listed all the things we had left to do. There was another dump run to make, odds and ends to load in the storage unit, and assorted leftovers to deliver to good folks who would accept them. | Road Trip Haiku #1 and Clear Lake Camping | What do you do with 8 rolls of Costco paper towels that have been in your garage for a year? Divide them up and deliver them with a full bottle of blue curacao to Alicia, recently returned from Hawaii, who might want to concoct Blue Hawaii cocktails to hold on to her Aloha spirit a while longer. With Amaryllis pots to Kathy and Eva. With the last of the Resolve and bleach to Kate and Tera. And with the last of the potting soil to my mother who graciously let us hang out at her house for our last two days in Humboldt County. Now, Onto the highway
3: Feb 1 - Barbara Hi all, My first blog entry – whoooo hoooo! With two stops in Arcata and three in Eureka, we finally started moving on down the road. We decided to stay at Clear Lake State Park. All the years of driving by on 101 and 20, it just seemed right to check it out before moving on. I have to say it is a treat. Only two other campers tonight. More bird diversity than expected – even white pelicans. So, safely landed in our first stop, I have to pause and give thanks to all the friends and family who helped us launch. Thanks to the friends who fed us when our house was a wreck: Jim and Elizabeth- amazing Greek food and fun travel stories; Eva and Kathy – OMG great Humboldt treats and wonderful company; Kate and Tera – what a great idea to spend our last night with good friends on the Plaza. Those prom goers looked 12years old to me. And finally, Gloria who put us up the last night, fed us well and whipped us at Hand and Foot. Also a gigantic thanks to Leslie who is our connection to everything while we are on the road. To all the friends and neighbors who stopped by or emailed to wish us well, thanks for sharing your love and kindness with us. We feel blessed – and ready for adventure! Feb 2 - Barbara Clear Lake State Park is a small gem. The city of Clearlake should definitely be missed. It has nothing to recommend it. So back to the park. I am sure this place is a zoo in the summer, but right now it is quiet and teeming with birds and wildlife. We saw a huge flock of wild Turkeys – is that a gobble of Turkeys? I think it was actually two or three smaller groups come together. We counted over 40, and I have never seen more than 5 or 6 together before. A picture may or may not be attached – depending on whether we could upload it and if the birds were visible. If you are interested in the bird list, let me know and I will add it to my entries. Meanwhile, let me just add that seeing all the Acorn Woodpeckers took me back to my high school days on Mt Laguna in Cleveland National Forest. Did you know that Clear Lake is California’s largest natural lake? Now you have an interesting fact for the day. Signing off from the land of the Pomo. Cheers, Barbara
4: Posted on February 6, 2011 by bogsblog| 7 Comments Feb 6 – Gretchen We broke camp in Clear Lake and took off on Highway 175, a twisty-turny road that reminded us of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park. This was the beginning of our love/hate relationship with our Garmin GPS. We renamed her Carmin (Where in the world are we Carmin San Diego?) so we could talk with her more easily and, as it turns out, curse her more readily too. Barbara calls her Charmin (as in TP) when they disagree, I call her Demon. She is quite the stubborn navigator. If you stray from her route, she insists on directing you to take a right on some tiny street and make a u-turn to get back to her chosen route. She is more of a city gal then a country lass and doesn’t take kindly to changes in agenda. Between strong willed Barbara at the wheel and loud mouth Carmin on the GPS, I was twisted and turned just like the highway. Thank god for the OFF button! (Carmin, not Barbara) We made our way over to West Side Road and a quick stop at Hop Kiln winery where we tasted some delicious mustards – wasabi, sesame, jalapeno, to name a few. Continued on to Guerneville and Hwy 116 to Hwy 1 and down the rugged Sonoma Coast for a night’s stay at Bodega Dunes State Beach. Had a nice walk on the beach and flushed a couple of frisky jack rabbits in the grassy dunes. Still no hookups, but free showers in the campground. Hallelujah! Next south to Santa Cruz and the Seacliff State Beach and our first RV Park experience. We were humbled by the huge Alija and Prevost RV rigs. Gabby was dwarfed by these monsters that were 2 to 3 times her size. Each had a room sized patio mat, several chaise lounges, a dog kennel with at least one sleeping canine, and their own personal fire pits. We were awed, but not bowed. Enjoyed a magnificent sunset that went on and on, changing from yellow to orange, blue, green, red with mauve and indigo mixed in. You don’t have to have a big rig to enjoy that! Next day, it was on to Mitchell’s for mothers-son time. He took us to Zachary’s for a delicious pancake, tofu scramble, omelet breakfast. Then off to Natural Bridges to commune with the monarch butterflies, explore the tide pools and check out the tessellated rock that looked like wild animal skins – giraffes, ocelots and more. Barbara spotted a thrasher that was singing its fool head off, but getting no action from the females. Mitch and Barb rocked out to their rap version of the thrasher’s song. I’m sure he didn’t appreciate it. A little bit of Humboldt County in Santa Cruz – ran into Korye, a former Environment & Community student, on Pacific Ave. He was in town for a Farm to School conference. Also spotted Diane Sipperly driving on West Cliff Drive. The Humboldt connection is never broken. Another hot shower. More good food. Laughing at old photos that Barb collected for Mitchell when we were packing up the house. A good opportunity to remember our trip to Tasmania and to poke fun at my past hairstyles! Boondocking in Mitchell’s apartment parking lot. And now morning coffee at Whole Foods before we wake Mitchell up. Happy birthday to me. Life is good. | Love/Hate Relationship
5: Feb 13 – Gretchen We zigzagged back to the coast and spent yesterday in San Simeon, walking along the sunny beach and touring the Visitors Center at Hearst Castle. The final tours of the day were sold out so we had to return this morning for our visit to La Cuesta Encantada. Neither of us had been to the mansion before and we’d always been curious so we were happy to take the opportunity to visit. It is an impressive place, especially the gardens, statues, tiling/mosaics and grand vistas. I have been reading Beryl Markham’s West with the Night, tales of her adventures growing up in Africa, hunting warthogs, tussling with lions, raising racehorses and flying her aeroplane over the countryside locating elephant safari sites. In the car, we listened to Into Thin Air, about the obsessed mountain climbers and rich adventurers who climbed Mt. Everest, some of whom did not return alive. And now, here we are at Hearst Castle learning about William Randolph Hearst, publishing tycoon, politician, world traveler, and obsessed designer of this incredible castle filled with international artwork and, at one time, famous people. Our little RV adventure diminishes to a game of tiddlywinks in comparison! | Posted on February 13, 2011 by bogsblog| 6 Comments Feb 11 – Gretchen We just spent four days with my brother, Randy, his wife, Sabrina and their two daughters, Corrina (9) and Brianna (6) in Yosemite National Park. Sabrina was working most of the time at her new position as Project Manager of the Merced River Master Plan for the National Park Service. The rest of us hung out at their house in Mariposa, played dodge ball and Roll The Pigs, worked on math homework and watched Gilligan’s Isle. For two days we hiked some of the snowy trails in the park, enjoying breathtaking views of Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, the Cascades and Mirror Lake. Yosemite is a place of extremes. The cracked and dripping granite cliffs rise up on both sides of the valley and surround visitors with their towering walls. Everywhere water flows – in silent, black lines down the crags, in roaring ice-cold rivers, and in dramatic, white ribbons free-falling over the edges and down the faces of the gray peaks. To see and hear the power of nature is exciting and humbling at the same time. Today we parted ways and Barb and I headed south toward Fresno while the four of them headed north to Clio. We passed Visalia and then turned west to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park near Earlimart. This is the only California town to be founded, financed and governed by African Americans. The church, school, stores and houses have been rebuilt to depict the town as it was from 1908-1918. There is a small campground next to the park where we set up for the night. At sunset we watched a Great Horned owl hunt for dinner and Mexican Free Tail bats flit out for their evening romps. We’re looking forward to warmer temperatures tonight. Lows in Mariposa got down to the mid 20s, but here it should be in the 30s. Sweet dreams. | Yosemite – Allensworth – San Simeon
6: Feb 16- Barbara Well I just spent a half hour writing a lovely blog entry only to lose it. $#@@ technology. In a nutshell, I am dirty but happy. I have a helmet instead of hair on my head and I don’t care. Joshua Tree and the Mojave are growing on me. I love the wide open vistas. Makes Yosemite seem claustrophobic. One Joshua tree looks sad, sometimes silly. Like an amateur new-wave artist sculpture. But, a group is attractive and a forest of them is downright beautiful. Hard to believe they are in the lily family. I will add to the bird list when we have more time. We have had some real treats. I saw my first Phainapepla (will check spelling) yesterday. Saw more this morning. More to come. Cheers, Barbara | Posted on February 16, 2011 by bogsblog| 5 Comments Feb 16 – Gretchen Here’s a picture from our earlier time in Santa Cruz with Mitchell. We are now in Yucca Valley after spending the night in Joshua Tree National Park. We planned to hike today, but the icy wind gusted us out. It is blowing in rain clouds and possibly some snow. Thanks to everyone for subscribing and commenting on our blog. Sorry that we haven’t responded individually to each of you. We are disconnected from WiFi and phone reception more than we anticipated. | Rainbow Basin and Joshua Tree | We had this all to ourselves!
7: A Hike Down Memory Lane | Posted on February 20, 2011 by bogsblog| 6 Comments We drove out of the gusty winds at Joshua Tree and headed for warmth near Palm Springs. Along the way we stopped for a rainy hike through the Morongo Canyon Preserve. There were several well marked pathways to walk and supposedly many birds to observe, but we didn’t see much but brown reeds and bare trees. We enjoyed a bright rainbow at the end before we climbed back in the van and headed to Desert Hot Springs and a hike down memory lane for me. When my siblings and I were kids my father would bring us to Desert Hot Springs for weekends at his mobile home property. He loved the desert heat, the mineral pools and the dates and grapefruit of Coachella Valley. None of us kids cared for the sweltering heat or the local produce, but we loved living in our bathing suits and clowning around in the cooler swimming pool. I remember getting up on Easter Sundays to attend sunrise services, visiting wrinkly and bright eyed Mrs. Smith, a former Torrance neighbor who painted pink roses on china cups in her desert cabin and taking rides up the aerial tramway to the snow in Idyllwild. We entered a newer and bigger Desert Hot Springs than the one of my memories. In the 35 years since I last visited, sprawling neighborhoods of tract homes had been built. We found the Visitors Center and were directed to several spas and RV parks. Sam’s Family Spa sounded familiar. We headed out on Dillon Road and déj vu struck. There was the cinder block market on the corner. I recognized the logo of the fat and sassy Sam under a cowboy hat. We chatted with the office clerk and then drove around to find a space. We hooked up to electricity and water – what a treat! Our first matter of business was to get into some hot water and then a delicious shower. The four mineral pools ranged from 98 to 104 degrees and the swimming pool was 85. How wonderful to soak in a hot tub and listen to the palm trees sway in the wind instead of being jostled along with them. We toured the bird cages and duck pond in the back. Most cages were empty, but there was one lone white peacock and a small community of wading birds – geese, mallards and an egret. Today we head out to ride the tram up the side of the San Jacinto Mountains, shop in Palm Springs and find a date shake and giant grapefruit at a roadside stand near Indio. Now, if only the wind would ease up a little. Feb 19 – Gretchen The tram ride was pretty much as I remembered it. A 12 minute ride up the mountain from 2,643 to 8,516 feet with spectacular views of the granite cliffs above and the Coachella valley below including lines of spinning turbines on wind farms. We hiked in the snow in the San Jacinto State Park at the top and ate gourmet sandwiches at the Peaks Restaurant. | On the mountain
8: We strolled down the shopping area on Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs and visited Moorten Desertland Botanical Garden, a funky family-run garden residence estate in its 72ndyear. It was founded in 1938 by Patricia and the late “Cactus Slim” Moorten and features over 3,000 desert plants and the world’s first Cactarium. After driving aimlessly through Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells, where the majority of blocks held gated communities with manicured lawns and desert landscaping, we tried our first boondocking at Walmart in La Quinta. We were joined in the parking lot by five other RVers who arrived late and left early. In the morning we strolled the grounds at the Living Desert and saw more birds and wildlife, from North America and Africa. We especially enjoyed the Wild Dogs, Roadrunners and butterflies. Later, we found a date shake at Shields in Indio. It may sound odd, but a date shake is just a little bit of heaven. We shared one while we learned about the sex life of the date in the Shields theatre. | After our decadent treat, we headed out of the desert resorts and back to Joshua Tree National Park, this time on the southern Cottonwood side. After an afternoon hike on the nature trail, we settled in at our campsite, just as the rain began. The storm lasted all night and made a pleasant chime sound on Gabby that reminded us of a marimba. Today the ranger told us that 1 inches of rain fell and she was very happy because it was the first precipitation since December and assured a great wildflower display in April. We hiked the Mastodon Peak trail this morning and were surprised by a short hail storm before the sun came out and warmed us on the way back to camp. Although our campground is primitive, it does have water and we plan to hang out for a day or two. | Dates have an un-natural sex life! | Another view from Joshua Tree
9: Saguaros are like snowflakes – no two are exactly the same. They don’t grow arms until they are 75 years old and some never grow arms at all. Sometimes the arms grow up and sometimes they grow downward if there has been a freeze. If there is drought, they shrink and if there is a lot of rain, they suck up the water until they burst. They can reach a height of 50 feet and can live 150 to 200 years! | At Organ Pipe, Gabby met one of her cousins. It was a 1999 RoadTrek, just like her, but it was a Popular model rather than a Versatile. We had a nice chat with her owners, Bob and Connie from Montana. | Posted on February 23, 2011 by bogsblog| 5 Comments Feb 22 – Gretchen Thanks to Maren for recommending a visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Park in southeast Arizona. Here are some of the cacti we saw while hiking in the desert. | Organ Pipe and Saguaro Pictorial
10: We saw a little rock art in Saguaro National Park, but we weren’t sure if it was historic petroglyphs, modern graffiti or UFO messages. What do you think?
11: Roadside Attractions | Posted on February 28, 2011 by bogsblog| 2 Comments Feb 28 – Gretchen Near Benson, AZ, we dropped by a roadside stop with a gas station, curio shop and Dairy Queen. We paid $1 each to tour the museum which featured an odd assortment of stuff – antique cars including a Rolls Royce used by Adolph Hitler, strange painted wood creatures and, of course, The Thing. | We continued on to the Kartchner Caverns (as recommended by our Joshua Tree park ranger) and Barb picked up a little rubber roadrunner in the gift shop for me. Rhoda fits perfectly atop our rear view mirror and is now our official trip mascot. | Further up the road just before Las Cruces, NM, we took a break at a rest stop to commune with their 25 foot Roadrunner created entirely from trash left by visiting travelers. Most of the refuse/art materials were old shoes, but there were also forks, dolls and other sundry items. | Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen is a great touring book that has helped us find lesser known campgrounds. Rockhound State Park, outside of Deming, NM, offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and cactus-lined hills with the added bonus that you can hunt for geodes and other semi-precious rocks and take up to 15 pounds of them home with you. | Check out the little bird on top
12: At Balmorhea State Park, our first stop in Texas, we enjoyed a dip in the huge spring-fed swimming pool. Along with us swam pupfish, catfish, grebes and scaups, not to mention a class full of scuba divers and high diving teenagers. And there was plenty of room for all of us as the pool covers 1.75 acres. Temperature was a perfect 76 degrees. Last night we camped at South Llano River State Park and decided to take a short hike this morning before driving on to San Antonio. We walked along the river and chanced upon a roadrunner intently hunting for insects. He was not the least bit afraid of us and allowed us to watch him adoringly as he fluffed his crest and twitched his tail. What a treat! Feb 27 – Barbara Things have finally warmed up. The short sleeves are moving to the top of the pile. After several weeks in desert country I am feeling and looking a little more like the alligator skinned woman in “There’s Something about Mary.” (I think that is the right movie.) Makes me appreciate the moist cool air of Arcata. For those of you still shivering in Humboldt County, I can give you something else to appreciate: the drinking water. OMG – the local water has been consistently nasty. Oh for a little taste of the Mad River. I am relaxing into life on the road and enjoying just being and learning. This is one of the most self-indulgent things I have ever done, but the guilt twinges are few and lessening every day. I love learning about the natural history wherever we visit. I have been impressed by the quality of the interpretation provided by the state and national parks. They generally do a great job on the geology and flora and fauna, particularly bird-life, and they do a respectable job of honoring the people who inhabited the land before Europeans showed up. Often, they do a better job with early Native American life than they do early European settler life – unless guns are involved. The American love affair with guns and fighting is obvious everywhere in the “old west.” The bird watching has been excellent. With new birds to spot, the joy of my early bird-watching years is returning. Some new sights for me include a Verdin (cute little guy, cool nest), Costa’s Hummingbird, Black-crested Titmouse, and best of all a Vermilion Flycatcher (gorgeous). The Vermillion Flycatcher perched right in front of us and posed for at least a full minute. (A minute is a long time in bird-watching and earthquakes.) You will not find many gulls or sparrows on the list – I admit my prejudices against them, but we watched a Black-throated Sparrow this afternoon that made me question my “all sparrows are boring” attitude. I added a (somewhat slap-dash) bird list to the blog, but you have to go to the blog site to see it – it will not come as an email. I promise to do a poor job of keeping it up-to-date. Cheers, Barbara
13: Find the Alligator | Posted on March 9, 2011 by bogsblog| 5 Comments March 7 – Gretchen Q: Why do they call it Texas? A: Because it Texas so long to drive across! Yes, we are still in Texas. We got to the Lone Star State a week ago camping at Balmorhea and South Llano River in the west before reaching San Antonio for a visit with Barb’s mom. She gave us updates on the extended family’s vital statistics (births, deaths, health conditions) and taught us two new card games. Quiddler is a word spelling game and Five Crowns is a rummy game with five suits – clubs, hearts, spades, diamonds and stars. Lots of fun even though she skunked us several times. | When we arrived in San Antonio, there was a large brown paper package waiting for me, a birthday gift from my childhood friend, Joellen. I hadn’t expected a box so big, but since we are in Texas I guess I should have! (Everything is big in Texas.) Inside were two pink flamingos for distinguishing our campsite. After our visit with Mary, we drove down to Corpus Christi to visit Barb’s Aunt Marnie and to Port Aransas where we camped at Mustang Island State Park on the Gulf of Mexico. Lots of wind and a little rain. Yesterday was clear and we set off for bird watching at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center where we were fortunate to view roseate spoonbills, brown pelicans and blue and green winged teals, but no alligators. Check out Barb’s bird list for other new sightings.
14: Now we are camping in Brazos Bend State Park south of Houston for a couple of days. We took a long hike this morning and saw more interesting bird life AND American Alligators. Can you find them in the pix below? March 7- Barbara West Texas is a whole bunch of nothing, served with a large side of wind. The only good part was that we got just over 17 miles to the gallon. Listening to a good book on tape made all the difference in the world. We had traded Into Thin Air (too gruesome) for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Living History when we saw it in an RV rec/laundry room. It would not have been my first choice, but I ended up enjoying it, and especially enjoying the conversations it sparked. The experience of listening together and pausing to reflect, reminisce, and discuss was very satisfying – much better than discussing a book after we both finished. It inspired us to head north to Arkansas and the Clinton Presidential Center. The visit with my mom and brothers was great. No special events or tours, just time hanging out, and it was just right. I was relieved and pleased to see how content my mom is in the assisted living center she moved into about a year ago. The staff is great, she likes the food and her apartment, and she knows how to avoid the grouches and gossips. Our visit was too short to see everyone, but we appreciated the time my brothers and their clans made for us. Corpus Christi looked a little more run-down than I remembered. We cannot recommend it as a travel destination. The roads are horrible and the drivers are the worst we have encountered. We started rating towns by the politeness and safety of the drivers, with three air kisses as the best and three darts as the worst. The three darts comes from an old George Carlen routine where he opined that we should all have rubber dart guns and tag anyone who does something stupid or obnoxious. Then, whenever a cop sees a car with three or more darts on it “he could pull’em over and give ‘em a ticket for being a total asshole.” San Antonio and Palm Springs are two dart towns. Indio and Santa Cruz are one air kiss towns. Corpus is a three dart town. Now we are back to hiking, and our old nature-loving ways in Port Aransas and Brazos Bend. I will be updating the list on our blog so if you are interested, click on the link and go to the blog site. If you are just mildly curious, google Roseate Spoon Bill (flamingo-esque), Anhinga, White Ibis (strange and beautiful), Tufted Titmouse (a big-eyed beauty), and/or (if you did not do it after the last blog) Vermillion Flycatcher (drop-dead gorgeous with wings). Tomorrow Gabby gets fresh oil and a tire rotation, and we get clean clothes! Cheers, Barbara
15: The winter starkness is obvious, but the weather was perfect and we had a great time exploring east Texas.
16: Posted on March 12, 2011 by bogsblog| Leave a comment March 9 – Gretchen Today we traveled further north in Texas to the small town of Marshall where we stopped for a stroll and a coffee and scone break. Though rough around the edges, Marshall’s community support and Main Street redevelopment program are thriving. We toured the beautifully restored courthouse, enjoyed the public art and learned a little about Boogie Woogie history. | Boogie Woogie piano was first played by African Americans in Texas in the early 1870s. The music emerged in the Piney Woods region of northeast Texas near the railroad and logging camps. Work crews entertained themselves at night in barrel houses where musicians first began to play the piano to sound like a train. Harrison County had the largest population of African Americans in the state of Texas for most of the latter half of the 19th century. Marshall was the railroad hub for Texas & Pacific (T&P). | We settled in at Atlanta State Park on the Wright Patman Lake near Texarkana and enjoyed a walk in the woods among the Loblolly and short-leaf pines, Eastern redbuds and jonquils. Spring is in the air. | Signs of Spring
17: Japan and Arkansas | Posted on March 14, 2011 by bogsblog| Leave a comment March 14 – Gretchen Being on the road and away from regular news sources, it took us a while to comprehend the magnitude of Japan’s earthquake and resulting tsunami. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this devastating sequence of events. I am waiting to hear word from my dear friend, Kaz Kawabata, in Miyazaki City. March 13 – Gretchen Arkansas is flat. The highways are long and straight and mind-numbing. We spent the last three days traversing the state from west to east and saw more Baptist churches in those 72 hours than during the previous 52 years of my life. I had hoped one of the inspirational messages written on a church marquee would be worth sharing here, but the corny saws vanished from my brain as soon as Gabby passed by. Maybe we’ll find inspiration when we tour Graceland tomorrow. Yes, we are now in Memphis, Tennessee. Okay, we did more than drive in Arkansas. We spent an interesting day in the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock poring over exhibits detailing Bill’s accomplishments during his tenure in the White House. We viewed replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room and inspected a gallery full of gifts received by the Clintons when they were the First Family. Some of these presents were downright terrifying including unbecoming portraits, ornate daggers, gaudy tapestries and tasteless porcelain figurines. One of the most entertaining displays in the Center was a traveling exhibit about Dr. Suess. We learned about his early advertising career promoting Flit (an insecticide with DDT!), his work as a political cartoonist, and his private adult artwork (unsuitable for young children to view!). Of course there were also many displays of his well known and loved children’s books. Dr. Suess’ creativity, energy, humor and compassion were as inspirational as Bill Clinton’s. Barb and I enjoyed our day in Little Rock a lot, but we both admitted that we felt somewhat depressed reading about the 42nd President’s progress in “building a bridge to the 21st Century” when we knew what transpired during the eight years after his service as Commander in Chief. Other good things about Arkansas: a St. Paddy’s Day parade down the main street of Little Rock that began just as we exited the Presidential Center, a trip to Historic Washington State Park where yellow daffodils bloomed and the sun warmed us as we toured the refurbished antebellum town and ate chicken and dumplings with fried okra and turnip greens for lunch (not nearly as good as what Libby cooks for book club), a long day hike in Hot Springs up Goat Hill over to Dogwood Trail and along the Grand Promenade above Bathhouse Row with a stop to drink the delicious cool spring water from a public fountain where local women were filling their glass jars to take home. And very courteous drivers.
18: Posted on March 16, 2011 by bogsblog| 2 Comments March 16 – Barb and Gretchen It is Barb’s tradition to write limericks for friends on St. Patrick’s Day. Here are a couple about us. Enjoy! Tired of the daily strive Two gals bought a van to drive They filled up with gas And plenty of sass Now they’re happy to be alive There are two gals in a van Doing the best that they can To live life with glee Their country to see And that is the sum of their plan | Happy St. Paddy’s Day | Walking in Memphis | Posted on March 18, 2011 by bogsblog| 4 Comments March 17 – Gretchen Before we left Humboldt County last month, Suzi Hendry gave us a travel guide to Elvis Shrines in the US. We figured why mess around with the trivial sites and went right to the top – Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Presley bought the estate in 1957 at the age of 22 for a mere $100,000. Touring the mansion was a perfect way to spend a cold rainy Memphis day. The estate’s exterior was striking, but the interior was less impressive. Elvis redecorated in 1974 and nothing has been changed since. The green avocado kitchen appliances, dark wood paneling and op-art wall murals were definitely out of date.
19: The tours of his cars, motorcycles and jets were okay, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed seeing his wardrobe exhibit. In addition to his multitude of white jeweled jumpsuits, he had racks full of paisley silk shirts and drawers of bling. It was fun to learn a little more about the King of Rock & Roll, but most of the info was surface-level. Graceland is undeniably an attraction, not a museum. | The next day we went into downtown Memphis to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, but discovered upon arrival that we chose the wrong day and it was closed on Tuesdays. So instead, we walked down Beale Street and spent a couple of hours at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibits cover Memphis music from the 1920s through the 60s, starting with sharecroppers from the cotton fields moving to the city and focusing on the Stax and Sun recording studios where music greats thrived including BB King, Rufus Thomas Jr., Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Al Green and Isaac Hayes. These artists’ talent and love of music allowed them to break through racial and socio-economic barriers at the same time that the civil rights movement was growing. Along with viewing photos and reading historical displays, we got to listen to lots of music from the Mule Boogie about a stubborn mule who devours a blacksmith shop to Elvis’ Suspicious Minds and Hayes’ Soul Man. Our visit to the museum reinforced the fact that no one becomes a legend on their own – favorable circumstances, significant times, supportive people and a world ripe for change are as important as one’s natural talent and ambition. | The scarcity of female musicians represented in the exhibits was disappointing, so we especially enjoyed learning about WHER, an all woman radio show produced by the owner of Sun Studio who recognized the need for more female voices on the airwaves. Memphis was rainy and cold so we decided to head south to Mississippi for some sun.
20: March 18 – Gretchen We’ve spent the last three days traveling south down Mississippi and camping in state parks – Wall Doxey, Legion, and Paul B. Johnson. Lots of water activities and disc golf courses here. This morning at 10:37 it was 73 degrees in Gulfport. We passed a billboard on Highway 49 for Humboldt County’s own Sara Bareilles, appearing at the Biloxi Hard Rock Casino in April. A nice reminder of home. Posted on March 21, 2011 by bogsblog| 4 Comments March 20 – Gretchen At Paul B. Johnson State Park near Hattiesburg we ran into our new RoadTrekkie friend, Marianne, who we had first met at Balmorhea State Park in Texas. While we were visiting family in Texas and traveling through Arkansas and Tennessee, Marianne drove to the east coast for a RoadTrek rally in North Carolina and an RV gathering in Georgia. It was a great coincidence to run into her again and get another camping recommendation, this time for Jeckel Island near Brunswick, GA, where there is an excellent sea turtle research center. We eagerly added it to our list. Our last stop in Mississippi was Shepard State Park in Gautier where we stayed for two nights and got acquainted with two of the friendliest guys you’d ever want to meet. Mike Steppe is a ranger at Shepard with an equally friendly Chow he calls Speedbump because she is always lying around in the road. She just got shaved for the summer and is completely bare except for a fluffy tail and a soft furry head which she uses to nudge your hand so you’ll give her a pet. Mike went beyond the call of duty to help us feel welcome, warned us about the no-see-ums (nasty biting gnats AKA “wings and teeth” and “flying jaws”), helped us find where to buy propane on a Sunday afternoon, and where to get a good bottle of Mississippi beer. Huck’s Cove sells a Southern Pecan nut brown ale made with real pecans that is smooth and delicious. Doug Hunt is a ranger at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. He was overflowing with information about the flora and fauna of the refuge, where to find the best barbecue in town and which Florida state parks to camp in during spring break. His theory was to measure how far a park was from the closest bar and to camp in the parks that were furthest away. He suggested some specific spots and talked about his experiences there and what each park had to offer. We have found personal recommendations like these to be invaluable. Which explains why we made a beeline for The Shed as soon as we left the refuge and ordered plates of barbecued beef brisket, spare ribs, coleslaw, baked beans and iced tea. And it was tasty. The Shed itself is a ramshackle café with outdoor picnic tables and funky decorations like a toilet with flowers growing in the bowl. As Doug told us – it’s an experience. We recommend it to anyone traveling down this way. We even like their rhyming ads – Get Fed at The Shed and A Little Heaven on Highway 57. | Friendly Mississippi
21: Flora and Fauna of Florida | Posted on March 29, 2011 by bogsblog| 6 Comments March 24 We wended our way from Mississippi through Alabama to the panhandle of Florida. It is warm and sunny here and I love the long names of the towns and rivers. Today we swam and hiked in Ochlockonee River State Park near Sopchoppy and watched a Swallow-tailed Kite fly overhead as we charted our next few days on the state map.
22: We enjoy being back near the ocean, walking along the white sugar sand beaches and watching for wildlife. While crossing Perdido Bay from Alabama to Florida we saw a dolphin diving and swimming next to our ferryboat and four Northern Gannets soaring above. During a walk in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge we were entertained by the quick antics of the Six-lined Racerunner lizard and a tropical green tree climbing gecko. At Big Lagoon State Park, we heard and saw an Armadillo at dusk snorting and foraging along the swamp. There were also a great number of Osprey hunting and nesting in the pine trees along the gulf shore and White-tailed Deer dashing away into the pine flatwoods. Our scariest sight was a poisonous Cottonmouth snake (aka Water Moccasin). Fortunately he was sleeping soundly in the swamp water a few feet away from our footbridge. This afternoon a bouncy White Squirrel scampered around the boat dock and trees on Ochlockonee River. | Barbara took a trip down memory lane with her brother, Rich, when we visited him and his wife, Sandi, in Niceville, close to Eglin Air Force base. Barbara’s family lived on base when she was in third through ninth grade and she has many fond recollections of the adventures she shared with her friends and her brothers – playing in the woods and swamps, and fishing and shrimping on the gulf. Rich drove us around Destin which has been transformed from an isolated one lane road through pristine white beaches into a vacation mecca of high rise hotels, nightclubs and shops. The change was a bit jarring to Barb, but we did manage to enjoy some hickory smoked prime rib at McGuire’s Irish Pub on the main drag. As we continued south down the west coast of Florida, we realized that spring break was not over quite yet. Many state campgrounds were packed and we had to be creative to find overnight spots. Fortunately, we got some insider info from a local Welcome Center and boondocked one night in the parking lot of the Cape San Blas lighthouse. Barb said it was one of the best settings we’ve been in – our own secluded beach, a beautiful moon, and crashing waves. March 26 From Cape San Blas on, Florida has been an ideal setting for rest and relaxation. I feel free of the stresses of the work-a-day world now and am blessed with a mellow calmness. Maybe it takes two months to decompress or maybe it is the warm sun, gentle breezes and olfactory delights of the South. There are many wonderful scents here to enjoy. We dropped in for a stroll and picnic at Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington and leisurely toured the camellia and azalea gardens and wandered under the moss-draped live oaks that surround the Wesley mansion. The fragrances of pine needles, crunchy oak leaves, deer moss, trail dust and pungent citrusy flower clusters mingled together for a delicious aromatherapy treatment.
23: Posted on March 31, 2011 by bogsblog| 1 Comment March 26 After racking up hundreds of miles on the highway, we finally passed a church with a sense of humor. The First Baptist Church in Cross City, FL has a marquee that reads “Without the Bread of Life, you’re toast”. I think that is as close to a chuckle as we’re going to get from church placards. The Florida State Park system has a more amusing outlook than the Baptists. Check out their Squirreliosis nature trail sign and the carrier caught on camera. | At Ochlockonee River, we met a couple of cross-country campers from Ontario, Canada. Debbie and Heidi arrived late in the evening, but joined us for a walk and talk the next morning. They were on the road for two more weeks and headed to the Everglades before driving back north. We had a nice chat and parted ways midmorning. Barbara and I continued south to Manatee Springs where we hoped to see manatees in the wild. Along the way, we stopped to coo over the delicate rain lilies and buy hot boiled peanuts on the roadside. We had just gotten settled into our new campsite with the awning up and the screen tent erected when Heidi and Debbie drove up and parked their van in the adjoining site. By happenstance we were camping neighbors again. Together, we continued our search for manatees. | Manatees, or sea cows, are mammals that weigh from 800 to 1200 pounds or more. They spend most of their lives underwater, but they have to surface to breathe. Gentle and curious, they co-exist with humans quite well. In the winter they move up into natural springs where the water is warm. The pools at Manatee Springs stay 72 degrees all year long. In the springtime when the Gulf of Mexico warms up, the manatees migrate out to the rivers and coast where food is more abundant. Due to recent warm weather, the manatees were migrating earlier than usual so most of them had already left the springs. | In Search of Manatees
24: Although we did not see any manatees, we enjoyed a dip in the springs and walked the boardwalk along the Suwannee River. The lichen covered Bald Cypress trees grow up to 150 feet with their trunks swollen at the base. There are also short growths called knees that surround the trees and add stability to their shallow roots. The swamps look like something out of Lord of the Rings and you expect to see gnomes and dwarfs sneaking around in addition to the leaping grey squirrels. | The four of us kept up our manatee search the next day at Chassahowitzka River, a little further south down the coast. We canoed the river, but still had no luck with the sea cows. We were just too late to catch them and with thunder storms predicted the next day we had to give up our quest. In the morning Heidi and Deb headed south for the Everglades. We wished them happy trails and extended an invitation to hang out with us in Humboldt County once we return and have a new home. Barb and I went to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where we got to see manatees that are permanent residents in the park due to life threatening injuries. They are huge creatures and we were glad to be able to see them even in the pouring rain and in captivity. | As we rolled along down the highway in Gabby the next day, we were entertained and a bit nonplussed by another church marquee. We weren’t sure if it was meant to be humorous, a comment on gays or a message from a higher dimension. It read – “God expects spiritual fruits, not sacred nuts.”
25: Posted on March 31, 2011 by bogsblog| 1 Comment March 29 We saw a brown freeway sign for the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota and decided to get off and take a look. Our membership card for the Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation allowed us to get in for free and we spent a couple of peaceful hours oohing and aahing over the gorgeous plants, sculptures and masks. Check it out at www.selby.org. | March 30 Today we spent the afternoon communing with Salvador Dali at the new Dali museum in St. Petersburg. No photos to share, but you can see it atwww.thedali.org. We enjoyed seeing the collection of his artwork from classical pieces to anti-art to surrealism to nuclear mysticism and the photos of him once he became a piece of art himself. Even lunch in the museum café was delightful – Spanish wraps and sandwiches served with green olives and spiced almonds. The gazpacho looked great too. Afterwards we walked the labyrinth in the Avant-Garden and bought a few postcards in the gift shop including The Hallucinogenic Toreador, one of my favorites. As Dali says, “The only difference between myself and a madman is that I’m not mad.” | Selby Garden and Dali Museum
26: The Everglades | Posted on April 4, 2011 by bogsblog| 2 Comments April 3 The Everglades is known as a “river of grass”, a term introduced by conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas in the 1940s. But there is much more than just grass here. Even though none of the park has an elevation higher than eight feet above sea level it embraces three unique ecosystems – freshwater habitat, hardwood hammock and seawater habitat – that support different collections of animals and vegetation. There are many fascinating trees here. The Gumbo Limbo is a tall red tree nicknamed The Tourist Tree because its peeling bark resembles a visitor’s sunburn. Mangroves live in shallow briny swamps and send out thick roots from their branches down into the mud, stabilizing the soil and creating an impassable forest that acts as a safe haven for birds and animals. Strangler fig seeds float in the air and settle into the branches of mature trees. As they grow, they send out ropy vines that strangle and can eventually kill their host tree.
27: Another natural danger in the park is the mosquito. We had heard horror stories from Barb’s aunt and brothers about the swarm of mosquitoes that surrounded and trapped them in their van during their visit 30 years ago. They all described their camping misery in the same painful detail and tried to dissuade us from coming. Fortunately for us we came at a perfect time. The dry season is just ending and the wet season hasn’t quite begun, although we did get caught in a torrential rainstorm during a ranger walk. Because of the rain and the mosquito issue, the busy season at the Everglades is the opposite of most national parks. Their full schedule of ranger presentations ended last night with a final star show. (Where we fed a few mosquitoes, some no-see-ems, and one pesky deer fly.) On our ranger walk, we hiked the Anhinga Trail until we were completely drenched and the walk was called off. The Anhinga is a skilled hunter that uses its sharp beak to spear fish. It looks a bit like a cormorant but is nicknamed the snakebird because often only its head and neck is above water. When you see it swimming in the water, it looks like a snake with a beak. We finally saw manatee in the wild and met a few American Crocodiles. The park is the only place where you can find both the Alligator and the Crock, as Flamingo (the bottom end of the park) is at the far northern tip of its habitat. On other hikes we encountered more scary specimens. Take a look.
28: Posted on April 7, 2011 by bogsblog| 3 Comments April 6 The Florida Keys have been a bust. We arrived at John Pennekamp State Park on Sunday in time to take a glass bottom boat tour to the living coral reef. As soon as we bought our tickets Barb started feeling queasy and it was downhill from there. Fever, dizziness, nausea, all those dreaded symptoms that could be flu, bug bite or who knows what. On Tuesday we visited the urgent care center in Key West and got her some antibiotics. They couldn’t say what it was without expensive testing, but said that Cipro would kick out just about anything that might cause those symptoms. So here we are in party town Key West and Barb feels lousy, sleeps all day with the air conditioner running and can’t drink alcohol. Yes, it’s a bad scene, but since I so rarely get to play nursemaid to a stalwart Barbara, I don’t mind at all showering her with TLC, plying her with ice, keeping up on the household chores and just staying quiet. Today her fever finally calmed down so I drove us out of our expensive Key West RV park back up Overseas Highway to Long Key State Park and let her sleep while I took the Golden Orb nature trail, named for the talented female spider who weaves a high quality silken web. Barb and I continue to be amazed by how much you can see when you just slow down a little. Golden Orb Nature Trail Haiku: Quiet white sand trail – Trees, grass, vines are all silent – Black snake slithers past | Florida Keys
30: Tiptoe Through Tomoka | Posted on April 10, 2011 by bogsblog| 4 Comments April 10 We continued our way north up Highway 95 passing Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando before landing at Tomoka State Park near Ormond Beach on Friday afternoon. And we have felt lucky ever since we arrived. First, we managed to snatch up the last available campsite which is no small accomplishment. | Then, while on an afternoon walk through the park we met a visiting interpreter preparing an exhibit on Trappers in the 1700s scheduled for the next day. Jim was a talkative fellow and, come to find out, a Del Norte native. He left Crescent City in 1965 without a backward glance. Now he travels around Florida with his associate, Robert, talking with school groups and park visitors about how old-time fur trappers lived and worked. | Earlier, we had seen posters announcing that Dani the Ukulele Lady and her husband, Billy the Ukulele Kid, were performing at the park store at 6:00 that evening. We made our way over to the Outpost and enjoyed a slice of key lime pie while listening to Dani play Hawaiian, Irish and country songs on the uke and the guitar. We especially liked her lovely rendition of Tiptoe Through the Tulips. And while the sun set over Tomoka River, Billy performed some of his original compositions on the uke, guitar and banjo. Quite a talented couple.
31: The next day we returned to the trappers’ exhibit to check out their alpaca, buffalo, deer, coyote and raccoon furs and learn about historic tanning techniques. The Europeans used “brown water” infused with tannins while the Indians used animal brains to clean and soften the skins. Famous personalities including Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone preferred the Indian hides because of their superior quality. We also learned about indigo dyes, Levi Strauss blue jeans, Florida’s early trading ports, and some Spanish and British history. Robert was quite a character and shared compelling stories about his family background and a childhood growing up at the Everglades. | Tomoka State Park is a gem of a campground with lots of shade and a sense of privacy even with 100 sites. We watched a dolphin frolic in the river and encountered some weird looking beetles and bugs including some with neon green wings and others with bright orange butts. There are also fireflies at night that never fail to delight us since we don’t have them back at home in California.
32: Posted on April 12, 2011 by bogsblog| 3 Comments April 11 Barbara It has been far too long since my last contribution to the blog. Between Gretchen doing such a great job and my being busy being sick as a dog, my motivation has been lacking. I am finally feeling perky today (just in time to tweak my back), so let’s see if I can amuse us. We have posted a bird list and told you about the church signs, but haven’t yet shared some of our other lists and petty amusements. Here are a few: Some place names that amused us: Toad Suck Park, Wall Doxey (not sure why that amuses me but it does), Gumbo Limbo, Wiley’s Well, Belle Campground (Belle, you would have loved it!), Lovekin (awww), Vermaland – lots for sale (come live with the vermin!), SoSo (at least they are honest), Hoot Owl Hollow (awww), Jack Ass Blvd. (wonder who lives there?), Comfort (think they are honest? – I think it is in west Texas.), Sop Choppy. Some Business signs that amused us: Donuts & Burritos (I am not eating there), Dead End Dickey, Tackle Town. Some signs that amused, baffled or irritated us: Blowing Dust Area (wouldn’t that be either obvious or irrelevant?), Caution Guardrail Damaged Ahead (if you plan to have an accident up ahead don’t count on the guardrail to stop you going over the embankment?), Rock Reef Pass, Elevation 3 Ft. (you read that correctly, 3 ft, not 3,000 ft.), Rifle Range, Country Club, Picnic Grounds, Roping Arena (all in one place, and believe it or not, next to an Army bombing range. That’s the Wild West for you.) Caution Bridge May Ice in Cold Weather (This was in front of every bridge in Arkansas, and the grammar and inefficiency of it bothered me every time.) Camp sites we liked: 14, 26, 110 (just joking) Some award categories: Mr. and Ms. Congeniality and Mr. and Ms. I Hate This F*ing Job with categories in food service, public facilities, and campgrounds. Longest “Interpretive” trail without a single interpretation sign, marker or map. The OMG I cannot believe we actually found it signage award. Hope I haven’t gone on too long. You can see how corny we are. We are so simple we even enjoy making fun of how the GPS voice (Carmin) says things: Star Bocks, make a u dern. Hope life is treating you well. Cheers, Barbara | Grab Bag
33: Farewell to Florida | Posted on April 13, 2011 by bogsblog| 4 Comments April 12 As we packed up Gabby and headed out from Anastasia State Park, we realized that we had spent three whole weeks in beautiful, warm Florida. It was time to say farewell to the Sunshine State, but we had one final stop. We enjoyed spending a leisurely afternoon in the quaint historic district of St. Augustine. We tasted delicious mango, pineapple and wild strawberry cheesecake gelato, strolled past pirate gift shops and “the oldest plaza in America”, and took a tour of Casa Avero. I am halfway through the novel, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and was pleasantly surprised to read the sign about Greeks from New Smyrna finding refuge in St. Augustine. Like these Greeks, Desdemona Stephanides, the grandmother in Middlesex, also fled Asia Minor to escape from the Turks. She emigrated to the U.S. and years later had dreams about retiring to New Smyrna until she discovered her husband had gambled away all their savings. It was a nice coincidence to discover a connection between my current reading and the history of Casa Avero. | Soon we crossed the state line to Georgia and headed toward Jekyll Island. Established as a members-only resort by an exclusive club of multimillionaires including the Rockefellers and Carnegies in the 1880’s, it is now owned by the state of Georgia and even commoners like us get to enjoy it. The island houses the new Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a rehabilitation, research and education center and one of the few turtle hospitals in the country. Five of the seven remaining species of marine turtles in the world nest, forage or migrate through the local waters. | It was fun to learn interesting info about turtles such as the fact that they don’t have sex chromosomes and their gender is determined by the temperature of the sand nest where they incubate. Warmer conditions produce females while cooler conditions result in male hatchlings. A heavy rain, a heat wave, the egg’s location in the nest and even the amount of nearby shade can determine gender! (Another connection to the novel, Middlesex, that will only make sense to those who have read it.) | The main dangers for turtles are boating (propellers and collisions), fishing (nets, lines and hooks), pollution (lights disturb nesting females and hatchlings and trash can be poisonous). Griffin the Loggerhead is recovering from a propeller injury and Randy the Green Sea Turtle has on a shell bandage because of excessive epibiota. This condition is an overabundance of creatures such as barnacles and crabs living on the terrapin’s shell and occurs when the host turtle is already sick. | On Jekyll Island, we found another Humboldt County connection. One of the Center’s AmeriCorps volunteers is a Humboldt State University graduate and a Crescent City native. Does Amanda Harris ring a bell to any former or current HSU employees? We didn’t meet her, but enjoyed reading her bio on the AmeriCorps bulletin board.
34: Posted on April 15, 2011 by bogsblog| 2 Comments April 14 I never thought that one of our blog subscribers would be reading Middlesex at the very same time I am. Fortunately I didn’t give away too much info so no Spoiler Alert was necessary. I’m glad other people have discovered the book too. Without the internet or movies to distract us, Barb and I are both getting more reading in and enjoying it a lot. | Savannah is famous for having been spared by General Sherman in his destructive March to the Sea after the Civil War. Many of the buildings and homes were restored during the 1950s and are now open for tours. We had hoped to visit the birthplace of Juliet Gordon Low, founder of the Girls Scouts in 1912, but the tour slots were full so we spent our time in the art galleries at SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design). We especially liked the collection of work by Faith Ringgold, author of the children’s book, Tar Beach, about a girl in Harlem who dreams of taking off from the tarpaper roof of her apartment building and flying over the city. Many of her art pieces are quilts and tankas (fabric scrolls) that tell stories about slavery and celebrate the lives of African American heroes including Martin Luther King Jr and Harriet Tubman. Our Road Trip USA travel guide was emphatic that anyone visiting Savannah should not leave without eating at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room and since Jamie Jensen’s advice has been consistently reliable, we were willing to wait in line for an hour to get in. It was worth it. Patrons sit at large oval tables that seat ten and are served 24 different dishes family style: fried chicken, meatloaf, barbecue pork, beef stew, turnip greens, butter beans, succotash, black eyed peas, yellow squash, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, lima beans, green beans, rutabaga, cucumber salad, white rice, green rice, boiled cabbage, barbecue beans, macaroni & cheese, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, noodle/pea salad and gravy. And for dessert: banana pudding and blueberry cobbler. Southern cooking at its finest. The staff wore tee shirts that read “If the Colonel’s fried chicken was this good, he’d be a General.” Another interesting thing about Savannah is its reputation for being America’s most haunted city. There are numerous guided tours you can take to get in touch with the ghost population: Midnight Zombie tour, City of the Dead tour, Creepy Crawl haunted pub tour and Sixth Sense Savannah, to name a few. No, we didn’t partake. We were happy to return to our safe, quiet campsite on Skidaway Island, just 15 miles away from the ghost capital. | Salutations from Savannah | Speaking of movies, we were channeling Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey while in the historic district of Savannah yesterday. It is a gorgeous one square mile area with shady live oak trees and dangling Spanish moss throughout. There is great green space provided by 21 squares featuring statues of generals surrounded by gardens along with Forsyth Park and the Colonial Park Cemetery. In Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks spent a lot of time sitting on a bus bench in Chippewa Square. And if you’ve seen Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with Kevin Spacey you can understand why the Parisian newspaper, Le Monde, named it the most beautiful city in North America.
35: Today we visited the Interpretive Center at the campground and with some lucky timing were able to see a Painted Bunting at one of the bird feeders. The buntings migrate from the Bahamas and Cuba to mate and nest here from April to October. They are one of the most colorful birds with a striking blue head, intense red eye ring and breast, and a shiny green back. Because of their vibrant colors, flocks of the buntings are called palettes or murals. The Interpretive Center also has a replica of a giant sloth skeleton discovered in 1822 by slaves working on a Skidaway Island plantation. These amazing creatures measured up to 20 feet tall, 25 feet long and 6,000 pounds! They were vegetarians who ate up to 700 pounds of trees and shrubs a day. How many dishes of turnip greens would Mrs. Wilkes have to cook each day to keep them happy?
36: Great Smoky Mountains | Posted on April 21, 2011 by bogsblog| 11 Comments April 20 - Gretchen Man has created some lovely dwellings, some soul-stirring literature. He has done much to alleviate physical pain. But he has not | For the past few days we have been in heaven in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Cherokee described them as shaconage, meaning “blue, like smoke.” Water and hydrocarbons exuded by the air-breathing leaves of trees and brush produce the smoky haze that gives the area its name. The national park was a cooperative effort of the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, the US government and the generous philanthropy of community members and John D. Rockefeller. We are grateful that so many people worked together to protect this piece of Eden. I call the Smokies my happy place. The roaring power of the rivers and the silent strength of the trees swaying beside them have a physical effect on me. Similar to gazing up into a star filled sky, the immensity of the forest makes me feel small. I feel guarded by the trees and humbled by them at the same time. When nature has such a huge presence it is easy to let go of unimportant worries and simply marvel at the surroundings I am so fortunate to behold. Barb calls the Smokies a feast for the senses. Our eyes, ears and noses are tingling. There is a remarkable variety of trees here with a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors – the eastern hemlock, chestnut oak, red spruce, Fraser fir, mountain laurel, magnolia, dogwood, beech, birch, sugar maple, buckeye, yellow poplar and hickory. The spring wildflowers are blooming and it is like discovering treasure to find crested dwarf irises, foamflower, partridgeberry and fringed polygala along the hiking trails. They look and smell delectable. Last night we were serenaded by a chorus of frogs near our campground. Rather than individual chirps, the frogs sang in harmony and their refrain reminded us of the sound of alien spaceships arriving on earth in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Although we haven’t seen much mammal or bird life here, we have had some close encounters with salamanders, centipedes, bugs and butterflies. Our photography doesn’t do it justice, but we hope you enjoy our attempts to capture the incredible beauty that is the Smokies. | created a substitute for a sunset, a grove of pines, the music of the woods, the dank smell of the deep forest, or the shy beauty of a wildflower. --Harvey Broom, Naturalist
38: Posted on April 26, 2011 by bogsblog| 3 Comments April 24 We are still in the Great Smoky Mountains, but figure we’ll bore you to tears if we continue to describe how beautiful the trees and rivers are so we’ll share some tidbits of info about the area. | Since the campgrounds in the park do not have hook-ups for electricity and water and there are no showers in the bathrooms, we had to drive to Gatlinburg for a day to get hot showers, do laundry and shop for groceries. Along the way we passed by the Salt & Pepper Shaker museum and had to stop in for a look at the 20,000 sets of shakers. Yes, 20 thousand shakers – from kitschy to elegant and sweet to nasty. Here are just a few samples for your entertainment. | Back in the Smokies, we learned a lot about local history from a ranger presentation and in the Oconaluftee visitors center and farm museum. One exhibit presented oral histories of folks who grew up in the park during the 1900s. Eugene Sutton tells the story of how one day his uncle and cousins were brewing moonshine in their home still and heard that the tax auditor was on his way. They sent the 13 year-old Eugene out as a scout and told him to fire three shots when he spotted the taxman coming so they’d have time to get the hooch and still out of sight. Along with his rifle, he brought his scout pay – a quart of the homemade whiskey – which he drank as he made his way to the lookout. He waited and watched for the law until he was distracted by some pheasants. Excited at his luck, he bagged three of them and eagerly headed back home to share his bounty. When he arrived, his relatives were rushing around like crazy and he asked what they were doing. “You fired the three shots. Isn’t the tax collector coming?” He laughed and showed them his three birds. His uncle ran after Eugene and just about killed him over the pheasant fiasco! | Deep Creek
39: We heard another story from the park ranger about John Oliver and his family, the first permanent white settlers in Cades Cove, who were saved from starvation and freezing during their first winter by the local Cherokee. They went on to become successful corn farmers and were happy when a gristmill was set up that processed corn into cornmeal and wheat into flour. On specific days the farmers could bring in their corn and wait their turn to have it milled, paying the miller by barter with a portion of their goods. In order to keep the cornmeal from getting too hot and scorching, the miller had to regularly sniff the stones and adjust the settings. It was from this practice that we got the expression, “keep your nose to the grindstone.” | In addition to corn, the community members raised pigs, cows, chickens, and a variety of produce including apples and pumpkins. We tasted some delicious pumpkin butter, cherry preserves and chow-chow at the visitor center gift store. Today we are staying in the Deep Creek campground located on the southern edge of the park near Bryson City, North Carolina. Still no hook-ups or showers here, but there was phone reception so we could call our families to wish them a happy Easter. Hope yours was great.
40: Standing Indian, Melting Camera | Posted on May 1, 2011 by bogsblog| 1 Comment May 1 We’ve had fun tootling around western North Carolina, enjoying some city life in Asheville and getting back to the country at Standing Indian campground in Pisgah National Forest. We started out in Bryson City with haircuts at Julie’s and sticky buns to die for at Stoltzfus Bread Basket, an Amish Style Country Shoppe. Then onward to Asheville for burgers, beer and a movie at Asheville Pizza and Brewery, a hangout similar to Arcata Theatre Lounge, but with a full restaurant in front and movie trivia décor throughout. We shared a sampler of beers with cinema-related names: Stuntman porter, Escape Artist ale and Rocket Girl lager and enjoyed The King’s Speech with an Oscar-worthy performance by Colin Firth. Continuing with our culinary indulgences, we visited French Broad Chocolate Lounge in old town Asheville, recommended by some hikers we met up in the Smokies. A chocolate and coffee Internet café, the lounge was hopping when we arrived in late morning. They offer a wide range of handcrafted organic chocolates, some with a twist – a Thai chocolate with lemongrass, ginger, lime, green chile and coconut, the Theros with olive oil, orange and sugared fennel and the Indian Kulfi with rose, pistachio and cardamom. | We managed to stop eating long enough to tour the colorful and much-loved North Carolina Arboretum. It was bliss to tour the well tended gardens, walk the gentle trails and gaze at the lush surrounding hills. The arboretum obviously has some wealthy and generous supporters, but we just showed our Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation card and got in gratis.
41: We took a jaunt down south to Flat Rock to visit the home and farm of Carl Sandburg. Many people relate Sandburg to Chicago or Milwaukee where he wrote for newspapers and magazines for many years, but his final home was on Connemara Farm where he lived for 22 years. Poet, minstrel, lecturer, biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, he had spent his lifetime championing social justice and the American people through his writing and singing. He received a Pulitzer for history based on his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. At 67 he moved to Flat Rock and devoted his time to writing, publishing poems, children’s literature, fiction and non-fiction. He received a second Pulitzer for poetry at age 73. Sandburg’s wife, Lilian, was famous in her own right for her award winning goat herd. She developed a breeding program to improve goats’ blood lines and milk production and her star was Jennifer II who produced 5,750 pounds of milk, averaging 2.5 gallons a day. At Connemara they still raise relatives of Lilian’s goat herd and we got to pet Atlas, a day old Saanen with white fur and pink eyes. Next we headed back to the hills to Standing Indian Mountain, another recommendation from fellow Smoky campers. The mountain gets its name from a Cherokee myth about a monster that flew down to the village, stole a child and returned to the mountain. The tribe sent out a sentry and engaged the Cherokee Nation in praying for the monster’s demise. The monster eluded them, but suddenly there was a bolt of lightning and crash of thunder. The monster was killed and the mountain fractured – leaving only the shape of a standing Indian sentry. (Some say in punishment for being a poor sentry.) We never saw the shape, but we enjoyed some nice weather and rock hopping on the wet trails. While moseying around North Carolina, our camera began melting. Not the camera itself, but the pictures we took. While focusing on a shot, the color would fade to red and when we reviewed the photo, the edges of the picture would be melting like a heavy rain washed the photo chemicals down the sheet. This melting continued intermittently for several days and we knew it was time for a new camera. We now have a Nikon Coolpix S6100 and are learning how to use it. Hope you like the improvement. | The Folk Art Center is also well endowed and offers exhibits and a gift shop full of Appalachian style arts and crafts. A weaver demonstrated her work on the loom, a broom maker showed off a variety of his designs and vibrant quilts hung from the walls. But our most exciting moment was out on the nature trail when Barbara discovered a plump, pink Lady Slipper. We had been searching for these blooms on our mountain hikes to no avail and here was a single luscious flower posed and waiting to be admired by us.
42: Posted on May 7, 2011 by bogsblog| 2 Comments May 6 Warrior’s Path State Park was our final campsite in North Carolina before heading on to Virginia. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of a woodchuck family foraging in the woods and enjoy a visit by a raccoon who begged for dinner scraps at our picnic table. Hungry Mother State Park was our first stop in Virginia. The park got its name from a legend about Molly Marley. When Indians destroyed several settlements in the area, Molly and her small child were taken to the raiders’ base camp. The two eventually escaped and hiked through the wilderness surviving on the berries they picked. Molly finally collapsed and her daughter walked down along the creek alone. When the young girl was discovered, the only words she could utter were “hungry” and “mother”. A search party looked for Molly and found her dead on the mountaintop. Today the mountain is called Molly’s Knob and the stream is called Hungry Mother Creek. Although the legend is sad, the park itself is beautiful and serene. We camped next to a bubbling brook and hiked the six mile trail around the lake. At the end of our walk, we met Erin Barnett, a newscaster from WSLS in Roanoke, who was shooting a story about the 75th anniversary of Virginia State Parks. She asked me a few questions and shot pictures of Barb and me near the lake. The feature was supposed to run on the news May 4th, but we didn’t have access to a TV so don’t know how it all came out. | Virginia
43: Today we visited Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (www.monticello.org), near Charlottesville. Jefferson’s resume is impressive. In addition to writing the Declaration of Independence and serving two terms as President, he was also an architect, attorney, farmer, horticulturist, inventor, astronomer, governor, minister to France, and vice president! He designed Monticello using Andrea Palladio’s rules of classical architecture and was involved in all parts of construction including the purchase of materials and selection of interior furnishings from France. Monticello was more than just a home, it was a working plantation with 140 slaves, farms, orchards, vineyards, livestock, a blacksmith shop and nailery, joinery (woodworking shop), smokehouse, dairy and textile shop. We spent five hours touring the house and gardens and learning about Mulberry Row where slaves and free craftsmen lived and worked side by side. And then there were the surrounding forests, graveyards, museum and theater. A fascinating man and an intriguing place! After an afternoon at Monticello, we needed an evening walk before settling down for the night so we consulted with our GPS gal. She directed us to Ivy Creek Natural Area in Charlottesville. As you know, we continue to have a love/hate relationship with Carmin, but in this case, it was adoration. We learned the inspiring story of how Ivy Creek was formed and had the treat of observing a barred owl on the prowl for supper and a pair of Louisiana water thrushes shaking their tail feathers in a mating dance. Ivy Creek was once the home and farm of Hugh Carr, born into slavery ca. 1840. Emancipation and the breakup of the plantation system was the start of a new life for Hugh. He married, hired himself out to local farmers and began purchasing land of his own. He acquired over 125 acres and named it River View Farm. He and his wife, Texie Mae, worked the farm and raised six daughters and one son. When his wife died in 1899 he was left to raise his young children, aged 2 to 15. Hugh could not read or write, but he believed the education of his children was as important as feeding and sheltering them. Five of his daughters earned advanced degrees and became teachers and community leaders. After the death of Hugh in 1914 and his daughter, Mary, in 1973, The Nature Conservancy bought River View Farm. By 1981, the Creek Foundation, City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County were able to purchase the property and they renamed it Ivy Creek Natural Area. Today, the 215 acre preserve is dedicated to ecological education and land preservation. Now, on to Shenandoah National Park.
44: Posted on May 12, 2011 by bogsblog| 4 Comments May 11 – Gretchen Barb and I love Herb Alpert. Shortly before we left on our trip we were the recipients of Jennifer Bell’s CD purge and added his Rise album to our IPod. It is great traveling music, just right for rambling along two lane highways. | On the Highway with Herb | We started this leg of the trip in Shenandoah National Park, VA, at the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were following spring north, but in this case the season of rebirth had not yet arrived. The weather was colder and the trees were pretty bare with tiny buds still tightly closed. The ranger told us that spring was a week later than usual. Shenandoah was getting a facelift in preparation for their 75th year anniversary so the roads were in excellent condition and we were pleased to see our tax dollars at work in this way. We had a nice stay here, but I have to say that the beauty of Shenandoah did compare to the grandeur of the Smokies. We had a few nice surprises though – discovering Jack in the Pulpit along the trail, watching deer leisurely grazing in our campground and enjoying an orange sunset over the Appalachian Trail. After considerable conversation and scrutinizing of maps, travel guides and weather reports, we decided to head north to Niagara Falls and then east to Acadia National Park in Maine. East coast temperatures are rising and the snow has melted so it was time to move on. We passed over the border to Maryland and spent the night at Cunningham Falls State Park where we paid $31.13 for a campsite (cash, in a self-pay envelope) and shook our heads in puzzlement at the odd charge. Most camp fees are a flat $20 or $25 and we wondered where those extra cents were going, but we raided our coin jar and happily added 13 pennies to the envelope. The park was warmer and greener than Shenandoah, and we shared the park with only one other camper.
45: Yesterday we arrived at Shawnee State Park in Pennsylvania. Spring has undeniably sprung here. The trees are full of sweet-scented blossoms and the sun is warm enough to go sleeveless. We had a relaxing walk along the Shawnee river and through a grassy trail where I picked off a small tick crawling up my leg. Ah, the joy of spring! Back at camp, Barb lit a campfire and we enjoyed our first weinie roast of the trip. (This is Barbara) Since leaving the Georgia coast, I have the odd sense of being trapped in time. Because we are traveling north, and sometimes higher, we are moving with spring. A Shenandoah pamphlet estimated that spring traveled up the mountains about 100 feet a day, starting in March. I am sure there is an estimate for spring traveling latitudinally and that is the schedule we are on. We yo-yo between early and mid spring. Believe me, I am not complaining. With all the deciduous trees, spring is amazingly beautiful and fragrant here in the east. I have heard people wax about the fall colors (and the pictures are stunning) but I did not know the spring colors would be equally gorgeous. The vistas are a milder version of fall, but still a crazy quilt of color – greens, yellows, golds, oranges, reds smatterings of white and pink.