Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Artesia 2009

We had a wonderful time at Christmas with Casey, Angie and the boys in Artesia. Nothing like spending the holidays with the ones you love. Thanks kids for making Christmas so special. And great food, thanks Angie!!

Our precious grandsons, Parker and Rylee, on Christmas morning. Parker is almost three and Rylee will be five in March. They are growing up way too fast.

Rylee smiling for PaPa's camera.

Parker's looking pretty happy. Think he must be very pleased with Santa right now!

The boys in their Dallas Cowboys caps from PaPa and Grandma. Lovin' those cute Christmas PJs!

Showing off their gifts from Aunt Kathy, Uncle Joe and Cousin Megan.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Hello all!! One last update of our adventures. I know it has been a while since the last one. It has been a little harder to find WiFi lately. Before our next big trip I hope we have an air card for our laptop.
We’ve had a great time the last few months, covered a lot of ground (over 8000 miles!) and have seen so many neat sights. We now know where we would like to spend more time next trip, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Lake Superior. And...where we never want to go again, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the 5 o’clock rush in the rain!!!
We plan to visit the kids and grandkids in Artesia in a few weeks, then spend some time in central Texas at various state parks.

The Natchez Trace Parkway which runs 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville. It was a beautiful drive, with such pretty trees and manicured roadsides.

This photo was taken off one of several tall bridges on the Trace.

The famous Loveless Cafe near Nashville TN. My sister and niece Megan highly recommended the breakfasts there. Kathy said they serve “all things pig” and she wasn’t kidding! They have a smokehouse (on the left of the photo) right next to the cafe, and boy did it smell good! The foyer walls of the cafe are covered in signed photos of C & W stars as well as other famous folks. We had a really good meal with homemade biscuits, bacon, eggs, potatoes and grits (Donnie is the grits fan). After the Loveless we drove over to Franklin and Leipers Fork, TN, two quaint old towns southwest of Nashville. We would have explored more but by then it was beginning to rain. So, maybe on our next trip to TN.

We camped at Montgomery Bell State Park, just west of Nashville. The park is home to the birthplace of the Cumberland Presbyterian church. This is a replica of the log cabin where the church was organized in 1810. My (BJ’s) family goes several generations back as Cumberland Presbyterians. My sister and I were raised in the CP church in Denton, Donnie and I were married there, and we were members until our move to Cloudcroft in 1984. Guess that is why Montgomery Bell S.P. will always be a special place to me.

The CP chapel at the park. The chapel still has church services during the summer and is a popular place for weddings.

The 1880s family grist mill at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historical Park in Pall Mall, TN. The park, a memorial to the World War I hero, is part of the original farm that was given to him by the state of Tennessee. Sgt. York became famous due to a firefight against the German Army in France. Using his sharp-shooting skills, he and his squad had taken 25 casualties when the enemy surrendered. He and a few other men then marched 132 prisoners back to allied territory. His bravery earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor as well as over 40 other commendations. Now that we have seen this park, it would be good to watch the old “Sergeant York” movie again. According to my sister Kathy, any movie starring Gary Cooper is a good one!

The grist mill stream and pond. There was also a nice picnic area near the stream.

We camped next in Cumberland Mountain State Park, west of the Smokies. One of our favorite campsites in Tennessee, we stayed here for almost a week. Would have stayed longer but decided to beat the rain and head farther west. Right after we left there was major flooding in central TN.
This is the lake and restaurant in the park. We had a great dinner here one night, a buffet with pulled pork, ribs and lots of “home cooked” stuff to go with it.

One of the parks best known attractions is the Byrd Lake dam and bridge. It was built in 1938 by the CCC.

Family history time... This is the cemetery where my great great grandparents are buried in Spring City, TN. In case you can’t read the dates they are 1842 - 1911 and 1845 - 1912. William was a preacher who rode a mule to surrounding churches. I wasn’t named for Rebecca (my name is spelled Rebekah), but still think it is a neat coincidence!

This is the Applewood Farm Restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TN. Kathy, you were right, the food was great, apple juleps, apple fritters, apple butter, etc. Pigeon Forge is an interesting city with lots of things to see and do.

One day we drove the Cades Cove (11 mile) loop in the national park. Cades Cove was a farming community established in the early 1800s. There are so many neat historic buildings still standing - churches, cabins, barns and mills. This is the Methodist Church built in 1902, replacing the original log structure. It was constructed in 115 days for $115.

Just one of the beautiful views from the loop drive.

The John Oliver cabin built in the early 1820s. It is the oldest log home in Cades Cove.

Here is the camp cook at our site at Look Rock campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We were so lucky to be able to find a space here during the Labor Day weekend and ended up staying almost two weeks as it was a great base for sightseeing around the Smokies. We also met some really great folks, firemen and their families, from nearby Maryville and Alcoa, TN. They were so nice to share veggies from their gardens and some wonderful ribs they cooked for the holiday.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, VA

Had to share the photo below of our oldest grandson, Rylee. He caught this fish in his Froggy and Pops' pond at their place south of Carlsbad, NM. Froggy and Pops are Angie's Mom and Dad, Linda and Billy. I just love the expression on Rylee's face! Casey said he fought the fish for at least five minutes. The whole time he was reeling him in he was saying "Hold on there big boy!!".

Hey there! We’re back...
We are now camping at Look Rock Campground on the west side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have been here almost a week and plan to stay through the Labor Day weekend if not longer. It is great here, nice and cool, 70s during the day and low 60s at night. We haven’t really explored the national park yet. Will add photos of it when we do.
Since our last update... We found a great campground on the north eastern end of Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park called Matthews Arm (photos below). There were no hookups but we managed quite nicely with our generator (we used it a few hours each day to keep our trailer batteries charged up) and two five gallon water jugs. We spent five nights there and really enjoyed the stay. After that we ended up in Eden, North Carolina where we spent one night. It got up to 92 degrees with almost that much humidity. We decided to head west to the mountains where it would be cooler. We had talked about going to the east coast - NC, SC and GA - but changed our minds. Maybe next time we’ll go directly there in the fall. We stayed two nights at an RV park in Cherokee, NC, very nice park staff but too many people in Cherokee. We drove through the Smoky N.P. and ended up here at Look Rock campground. The other campgrounds in the park that were more centrally located were all reserved for the Labor Day holiday. We actually like this place very well as we are practically the only ones here during the week.

Another great view from the parkway.

Mabry Mill, one of our favorite places on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The last time we were here was the summer of 1988 with Casey and my (BJ’s) Mom and Dad. At that time, and until 1992, the mill was still working, grinding cornmeal and flour. That didn’t keep me from buying a few bags of cornmeal even though it was ground off-site.
Donnie and I took a break and had some great peach cobbler at the mill restaurant. He said it was as good as the blackberry cobbler he had there 21 years ago!

Inside the mill.

A view of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Wish we could have stayed longer but it was very warm and humid. Think we are seeing a pattern here? The south in August!!

I feel a history lesson coming on...This is the old armory where John Brown attempted a slave rebellion in 1859. He and 21 men tried to seize 100,000 rifles and pistols on this site which was the U.S. Armory and Arsenal. The skirmish which lasted only 36 hours ended with Brown’s arrest and execution for treason six weeks later.

The date over the train tunnel is 1931. We walked along a elevated wooden walkway right next to the tracks. Great views of the rivers.

Harpers Ferry train depot.

One day we went up to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. A quaint old town founded in 1751 on a site where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet. The narrow brick streets and beautiful old buildings are very well preserved.

A cabin that was moved to a visitor’s center on the drive. I walked into it and had to duck my head as the ceiling rafters were pretty low. The park interpreter, an older gentleman who had been chopping wood when we walked up, told me a few things about the folks who might have inhabited the cabin. It was an interesting “village” including the cabin, barn, spring house, and hog pen.

One of the views from many overlooks on the Skyline Drive.

We had a visitor daily, sometimes several times a day. One of these photos was taken right behind our trailer. The young bear loved the wild blackberries and wasn’t very shy about eating them next to us. The park host told us on July 4th a big female bear made herself at home on one of the food laden picnic tables. He showed us photos of her sitting on one of the benches chowing down on someone’s lunch. Needless to say she had to be relocated.

Our campsite at Matthews Arm on Skyline Drive. It was a pretty place, not very crowded even on weekends. Most of the other campers were from the Washington, DC area. There were quite a few bugs, mostly gnats, that came and went. Of course, we decided not to bring our nice screened shelter. Ha!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pennsylvania and New York

We’re back! We haven’t had access to WiFi in over a week. So...I’m playing catch-up. We left the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Thursday August 13th. Spent the night in Wauseon, Ohio. That day we hit the Ohio turnpike and drove all the way through the northern part of the state. We spent the night at Greenville, Pennsylvania, then on to Warren, PA the next day. On Sunday we drove into New York toward Lake Erie. We spent two nights at Lake Erie State Park. The next day, August 18, back through Pennsylvania, western Maryland, the eastern edge of West Virginia, then Virginia to the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. That is where we are now. The photos below will bring you all up to date. You'll need to start at the bottom of the post and read up...

After visiting the falls, and a quick stop for burgers, we drove east to Lockport, NY. That is where we saw Lock 34 on the Erie Canal. The town itself is pretty with several bridges crossing the canal. Did ya’ll learn the song about the Erie Canal in school? My sister Kathy and I did. North Ward Elementary in Mrs. Schmidt’s music class. “I’ve got a mule her name is Sal...” Ring any bells?? Okay, enough of that...

A couple of barge workers on the Erie Canal. Not sure if they are “Hoggees”, the men and boys who drove the mules pulling the barges.

The Erie Canal was opened in 1825. It ran 363 miles across upper New York state connecting Buffalo and Albany. The original canal was only four feet deep with 83 locks, each measuring 90 feet long by 15 feet wide.
This photo is of the “five flights” that were part of the original canal. The lock gates have been removed and now it is used as overflow.

On Monday we got up early to drive over to Niagara Falls. We were glad we got there so early as they were having another heat wave. It was still cool when we first got there and there were so few people that we felt like we had the park to ourselves. This is the American Falls. You can see people on the 230 foot tall observation tower. You couldn’t pay me enough to go up there because you know how I am about heights.

Another view of American Falls. Niagara Falls State Park is America’s oldest established in 1885. There are a lot of things to see and do in addition to the falls - the Great Lakes Garden, the Discovery Center, Niagara Aquarium, Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist and the Adventure Theater.

A nice lady from Rhode Island offered to take our picture after Donnie had done the same for her and her family. The morning sun hit the waterfall mist just right to make this cool rainbow. Shelby doesn’t look too impressed though. Think we got her up too early.

We walked over a pedestrian bridge to Goat Island to get a better view of Horseshoe Falls. You can see one of the Maid of the Mist boats that take a roundtrip near the base of both falls. We passed on the boat ride as we saw how wet some of the passengers got!

We stopped in Westfield (east of state park) at a car show that was hosted by the VFW. There were all kinds of cars there, but of course we only took pictures of Mopars!

I really liked this car, a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere, so Donnie snapped our photo!

In the same area there are miles and miles of vineyards. We stopped at a produce stand and talked to a very friendly lady who had grown all the fruit and veggies. We bought homegrown tomatoes (Donnie was in heaven!!) and some really wonderful peaches. She told us that in 3-4 weeks the concord grapes would ripen and the air would be scented with them.

On Sunday we were driving along the edge of Lake Erie when we saw this lighthouse. It was near a beach where lots of locals were trying to cool off. While camping at Lake Erie State Park the temperatures were in the low 90s.

Guess you can tell where this photo was taken? Yep, a WalMart parking lot. We were stopped here in Greenville in western Pennsylvania. Donnie noticed the shed with a horse and buggy parked in it. We saw several Amish couples and families coming in to WalMart to do their shopping. Downtown Greenville was small and quaint with narrow streets and some really interesting old buildings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mackinac Island, MI

We are staying a couple of nights at an RV park in Cedarville, MI. This is a view from our "back yard". Not bad, huh?! We can watched the seagulls, ducks, and swans. And earlier today we saw a bald eagle soaring above our site chasing an osprey. Pretty neat stuff...

This morning we took a catamaran (fast moving ferry) over to Mackinac Island from St. Ignace. The trip took about 15 minutes and this is a photo of the first thing we saw as we neared the island. I know...another lighthouse!

A view of Mackinac Island mansions on a cliff overlooking Lake Huron. Wouldn't you love to have one of these "cottages" for a summer house? I sure would, so I better start buying a bunch of lottery tickets!

The island harbor was a busy place this morning. We arrived here about 10 AM and it was already bustling with tourists. The white structures and wall at the top of the hill is Fort Mackinac.
A helpful gentleman at the chamber of commerce said the walk up to the fort was very steep, so we decided to tackle it first. When we got there a tour had just started with a demonstration of firing a cannon. Wow, talk about making your ears ring! The British founded the fort in 1780 during the American Revolution. Americans took control of it in 1796. Feel like you are getting a history lesson? We sure did when we toured it, and we learned quite a bit.
We walked everywhere we went and really enjoyed the exercise. Although I have to admit, all those horse drawn carriages started looking pretty good after a couple of hours.

The harbor looking down from the fort. The larger boat in the center of the picture is like the catamaran we took this morning.

One of the village streets on the island. Carey and Carolyn, you were right! Every second or third store IS a fudge shop. I read in one of the brochures that tourists are called "fudgies" by the locals. Now I know why. Actually, we didn't buy any fudge at all. We were not very good tourists! I say, just give me a good ole Hershey Bar any time...

I know you can't read the sign very well, but it is rare that we have a photo with both of us in it. We were walking up another steep little street when a nice lady offered to take this picture. I just had the camera out as an excuse to catch my breath! The sign says Mackinac Island State Park.

This church was built in 1904 with stones from the island. The stained glass windows were just beautiful.

Last but not least...This is the Grand Hotel. Built in 1887 it is believed to be the largest summer resort in the world. The front porch which measures 660 feet long goes down to a green sloping lawn covered in all kinds of blooming flowers and shrubs.
Well, that pretty much covers our adventure for today. We will be leaving the Michigan U.P. in the morning. We'll cross the Mackinac Bridge and head south. We aren't sure where we will stop next, but I will definitely keep you posted...