It’s Amazing in the Amazon

My sister, Karen, and I went to Peru.  A truly awe-inspiring experience.  We flew into Lima and spent the night at an airport hotel.  Not the greatest place to stay, but it was convenient.  The hotel was nice enough, but the view from our window was of the parking lot, billboards and a six-pack of Coke that was two stories high.

big coke sign

big coke sign

An interesting side note about Coke.  When Coca-Cola came to Peru it had to go head-to-head with a local drink called “Inca Cola”.  Inca Cola is very popular in Peru.  It’s yellow instead of brown, looks more like Mountain Dew.  It has a very different flavor.  And Coke couldn’t really compete.  The locals didn’t find it all that tasty.  So Coke did what many US companies do, they bought Inca Cola.  They were smart enough not to tamper with the taste.   They also then had the clout to get stores that carried Inca Cola to also carry Coca-Cola.   Inca Cola still outsells Coke.  At least among Peruvians….and also many tourists.   As I’m not a fan of soda, pop (or soda pop, if that’s what you call it) or any carbonated drink, really.  So I can’t tell you what it tastes like.

We stayed at the airport hotel because we had another flight first thing in the morning to Puerto Maldonado, Peru.   This was to get us to the first part of our adventure, our “Amazonian Experience”, as the tour company dubbed it.   The flight took us first to Cusco airport, then on to Puerto Maldonado.  Neither airport is all that big, but Puerto Maldonado is really small.  Basically about 4 gates, no jet-ways, just stairs they can roll up to the plane.

The stop in Cusco was brief.  It doesn’t take long to exchange a few passengers and their luggage.   But the scenery was lovely and the air was cool and crisp.   Puerto Maldonado was another story.  It is in the Amazon basin, in other words, jungle.  Hot, humid, buggy, but also colorful, lush and full of life.   The town was small with narrow streets and too much traffic for the size of those streets.   But it was colorful and interesting.  A small bus took us from the airport to the Madre de Dios river and the port of Puerto Maldonado.   The port is little more than a couple of small floating docks where boats can tie up to load and unload.

Sunset on the Madre de Dios river

Sunset on the Madre de Dios river

Port of Puerto Maldonado

Port of Puerto Maldonado

We were headed for our lodge, Corto Maltes, on the Madre de Dios–one of many rivers that eventually flow into the Amazon.   The lodge we stayed at is one of many eco-lodges along this watery jungle highway.   Peru has embraced tourism as a major economic resource and everywhere we went this was in evidence.   One of the more popular college degrees in Peru is a degree in tourism.  That degree plus facility in one of the more popular foreign languages is a ticket from poverty to the middle class.    Competition for the few spots available in the free state-sponsored colleges is fierce.

pool at lodge

pool at lodge

river viewed from porch

river viewed from porch

Back to the river:  after boarding our boat and being handed life vests to wear (yes, they are mandated and there are river patrols that enforce the law)  we headed for the lodge.  There was plenty to see on the short journey up river.  Small farms dot the riverbanks and boats toting everything and anything ply the waters.   We saw one boat that was so loaded down with lumber being brought from the rain forest to the city that it had to have a large pump sitting atop the load to continuously pump water from the boat back into the river.  The rear of the boat was so close to the water line that every wave  (or large ripple!) dumped water into the boat threatening to swamp it should the pump fail.

barely above water boat

barely above water boat

Once we checked into our respective bungalows and got the rubber boots that would be required footwear on most of the next few days, we gathered for our first hike/educational opportunity.   Our guide led us on a path into the rain forest where he identified many of the bushes and trees around us,  while also detailing their uses.  We saw a Brazil-nut tree and the round casing that houses the nuts in sections like an orange.  We tasted a tiny root that is a local anesthetic when crushed and pressed into a wound or bad tooth.  We were shown an ordinary green leaf that creates a purple dye when crushed and mixed with water.   Plus sightings of many types of birds, insects and small mammals in the undergrowth.

sipping butterfly

sipping butterfly

pretty birds

pretty birds

friendly agouti

friendly agouti

nosy agouti

nosy agouti

He also warned us about putting our hands on tree trunks for balance.  For instance there is an ant colony they call “devils beard”  that looks like dead leaves or something on a tree trunk.  It’s actually chewed leaves and mud that the ants form up on the trunk to form their housing.  Not something you want to stick your hand into.   Plus a lot of other things that look harmless–at first.  But turn into something far different when touched.  I learned to be careful very quickly.   Better to land on my butt, than to touch a “24 hour” ant.  So called, because the pain from the bite doesn’t begin to ease until after 24 hours has passed.

more flowers

more flowers

local color

local color

devils beard

devils beard

funny jungle fungi

funny jungle fungi

a walking palm

a walking palm

After dinner that evening (the food was excellent at every meal), we went for another boat ride.  This time to view the nocturnal wildlife.   It turned out to be a good night for spotting caimans.   Also seen were a mama capybara and her baby and an ocelot which appeared to be very interested in the baby.  It is unusual to see an ocelot in the wild, so this was a rare treat.   The capybara is the worlds largest rodent.  The grow to be up to 24 inches high and can weigh up to 200 pounds, although the average is around 100 pounds.

On another evening, we took a walk around the lodge grounds to spot spiders and tarantulas.   There were a lot of tarantulas!  We just never noticed them because they are normally nocturnal.    Unless you know what you’re looking for, their nests are not obvious.  But at night they all come out to hunt.  And they get big in the jungle.    One of the prettiest that we saw was also the most common, at least in the area where the lodge was.   After dark, when you knew what to look for, they were everywhere.

another arachnid is spotted

another arachnid is spotted

pink-toe tarantula

pink-toe tarantula

oro pendula bird

oro pendula bird

caiman in river

caiman in river

caiman on bank

caiman on bank

mama and baby capybara

mama and baby capybara

After a short night’s sleep, we arose at 4:30 AM for a short boat ride to a nature preserve.  Once there we embarked on a 2+ mile hike through the rain forest heading for Sandoval Lake.   The actual trail to the lake is only about 1 1/2 miles, but we had to take so many detours to avoid the deepest mud on the trail (the rainy season was just ending), that it almost doubled the length of the hike.

a muddy hike ahead

a muddy hike ahead

The original time of the hike called for us to begin the trip at 10 AM.  But that would have had us hiking in humid, jungle conditions during the worst heat of the day.  To spare us that, our guide had us begin the trip just after dawn.   Smart move.   I was so soaked in sweat by the time we reached the lake that I would have qualified for a wet tee-shirt contest.   And that was during the cool time of the day.

paddling out to the lake

paddling out to the lake

our boats await

our boats await

all aboard for the lake

all aboard for the lake

During the hike and at the lake we saw red howler monkeys, a Bufo toad (they secrete a hallucinogenic fluid when frightened or angry–don’t lick the toads!), a very large tarantula that must have lost its way, as they are nocturnal, blue and white swallows, a baby sloth, some bats roosting on a tree trunk and many other types of birds and insects.

tarantula on the trail

tarantula on the trail

bats on the tree

bats on the tree

Once we reached the lake, we got on boats and were paddled around the lake while being educated on what we were seeing.   The lake itself is only temporary.  It was formed when high water caused the river to change course and a bend of the river was cut off.  This bend became the lake.   However, since there is no source flowing into the lake to maintain its water level, it will eventually become a swamp and then finally dry out and fill in to become just another section of land.

tiger heron (juvenile)

tiger heron (juvenile)

baby sloth

baby sloth

The boat ride was interesting and the area around the lake filled with all manner of wildlife.  We saw a tiger heron which only has its tiger-like stripes as a juvenile.   One of the interesting features of the lake was the bright turquoise algae that grows there.   At first we saw it as just clumps that drifted along on the water’s surface.  But on one side of the lake it formed bands and streamers that covered the lake’s surface.   The color was intense and surreal.   The tiger heron was sitting above this banded surface and stretching and posing like a yoga practitioner.

Ommmmm...yoga bird

Ommmmm…yoga bird

walk this way

walk this way

more striped water

more striped water

striped water

striped water

Of course, after the boat ride around the lake, we had to hike that 2+ miles back to the river and the boat that would return us to our lodge.  In many places the mud was up to mid-calf.  Just trying to extricate the foot (while not losing the boot) was a major ordeal with each step in that thick, sticky, deep mud.   But eventually we all made it back onto the boat to be returned to the lodge.

colorful lizard

colorful lizard

red howler monkey

red howler monkey

Unfortunately I missed all of the next day’s excursions as I caught something truly vile on that first full day and was unable to eat anything for the next two days.   Forget walking or, for that matter, even staying awake for more than a few minutes during the first 24 hours of whatever bug it was that took temporary control of my life.  But by the time we headed back down river to fly back to Lima, I was almost feeling human again.

butterfly on banana peel

butterfly on banana peel

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Anza Now, I’m in the Desert

Since I’m so far behind on my posts now, I figured I’d do something more current and catch up later.  How much later remains to be seen.

I spent a week in Julian, CA.  It’s a lovely little town (and tourist trap) up in the mountains.  Julian is in an area which happened to be surrounded by blooming California lilacs.  The breezes smelled divine with all lilac scent filling the air.

On the drive down to the park we passed through the town of Borrego Springs.   In the desert just outside of town a sculptor has placed many of his works.   There is also an area outside of the town of Temecula, (on the other side of the mountains) where many more of his works are on display along highway 79.   These are large pieces, including a full-sized stagecoach, driver and horses with passengers inside the coach.   We’re talking a lot of detail to his pieces.

Bird on nest

Bird on nest

wild horses

wild horses

Mastddons

Mastodons

On the eastern side of the mountain, down on the valley floor is Anza Borrego state park.  This is desert, dry, sandy, rocky and very hot most of the year.  Fortunately it’s quite pleasant in March.   My sister came up to spend a few days camping with me and we went to Anza to go hiking and to observe the cacti in bloom.  There were quite a few blossoms and a lot of people wandering around to see and take pictures of them.

cactus flower with visitor

cactus flower with visitor

tiny desert flowers

tiny desert flowers

One of the many plants in bloom were the Ocotillo.   Ocotillos go dormant whenever the weather becomes too hot and/or dry.  Then they put out leaves and bloom any time there is enough rain for them to do so.   They can do this several times per year if the weather warrants it.

Ocotillo in bloom

Ocotillo in bloom

We chose to hike the Palm Canyon trail while we were there.  It’s a mile-and-a-half up to the oasis in the canyon.   Where the spring issues forth it allows the palms to grow and sends a small stream trickling down the rocks for a short way, before the water disappears again.   These little, hidden water sources are the reason there are so many bighorn sheep in the area.   And a reason so many photographers lugging cameras with enormous telephoto lenses are to be found.

mama and baby

mama and baby

mama sheep sunbathing

mama sheep sunbathing

During our stroll, we saw many forms of life, including quail, a mama bighorn sheep and her little one, a chuckawalla, and lots and lots of other types of lizards.  Topper would have been in lizard-chase heaven, if dogs had been allowed on the trail.   It was perfect day and an exhausting hike, but worth every step.

quail

quail

(There is a campground here that is RV friendly, but I would have had to move on Saturday as no sites were available, thus Julian was home-base for this segment.)

cactus flower

cactus flower

Enjoy the pictures taken on our little jaunt.

It’s Actually Acadia (Finally!)

This has been a long time coming, I almost feel guilty…almost.  I’m having so much fun that it’s hard to care that I’ve been letting things slide.  I’ll try to make up for it a little.

Acadia is beautiful beyond what words can convey.  It covers a lot of ground…and sea.  It is split into several sections.  I chose a campground between the main body of the park and Schoodic point for ease in seeing the park and its environs without having to move my RV.

Sailboat, near Schoodic

Sailboat, near Schoodic

Tidal pool at Schoodic Point

Tidal pool at Schoodic Point

Acadia is diverse.  I wandered through forests where the moss under the trees is so thick  it feels like there must be three or four inches of memory foam under your feet.  But you only sink in maybe half an inch.   The coastline is rugged and rocky with few sandy beaches.  The tidal rise and fall can exceed nine feet when the moon is full.  Rivers often flow both directions, depending on if the tide is coming in or going out.  They can have whitewater rapids that flow both directions, depending on the time of day.   The inlets and bays are all made for calendars and postcards; the views are spectacular.   Lakes and ponds abound and loons call from overhead as they fly past.

tidal pools

tidal pools

bay town

bay town

low tide river

low tide river

Then there is the lobster.  Lobster, lobster everywhere, cooked every way you can imagine.  All exceedingly fresh, tasty and cheap (for lobster anyway.)   The first time someone suggested that I eat at a lobster pound I didn’t know what to say.  (Hmmmm, they have so many lobsters that they wander the streets and they have to pick up the strays?)   Actually, no, they’re just places that buy directly from the boats then hold the little dears in live tanks until you pick out your supper.  Then they boil them in sea water and serve them to you with butter.  Yum.  I also developed a severe weakness for lobster stew, which isn’t really a stew, as there are no veggies involved.  Just big chunks of lobster in a soup that is pure cholesterol and absolutely divine.

and bays

and bays

boats

boats

I rode all over Acadia from Schoodic point to Mount Desert Island.   And plenty of the little towns that are strewn along the way.  I rode in a horse-drawn wagon on the carriage roads built by one of the early Rockefellers.  I saw the bridges he had built for his roads in the 1920’s, including one built of cobblestone by masons brought from Europe just to build the bridge.  These men were so concerned that they wouldn’t be able to find the right kind of stones in America, that they filled the ship they came over on with the stones they would use to build the bridge.

cobble bridge

cobble bridge

inside cobblestone bridge

inside cobblestone bridge

carriage

carriage

Mr. Rockefeller was a forward-thinking man when it came to his carriage roads and bridges.  There are “curb” stones on the road’s edges that go down into the ground several feet to keep carriages on the road.  The bridges were built with spouts to direct rainwater on to trees planted below the bridges.   No road has a grade steep enough to tax the horses drawing a carriage, or endanger the riders.  He also employed hundreds of people from the nearby town to build his roads and maintain the home and grounds.   Many worked for him most of their adult lives.

bridge spout

bridge spout

another bridge

another bridge

bridge

bridge

While in Acadia, I had lunch at Jordan Pond restaurant.  It is known for its fresh popovers.  They were a delightful treat that I enjoyed with a bowl of lobster stew.  (I gained way too much weight in Maine….but it was worth it!)   I rode endless miles on my little motorcycle and loved them all.

bass harbor lighthouse, another view

bass harbor lighthouse, another view

bass harbor lighthouse

bass harbor lighthouse

lighthouse

lighthouse

small town view

small town view

Along the way I saw spectacular sunsets, numerous lighthouses, and all manner of beautiful things.  I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain and saw endless vistas of lakes and forests.  I saw bay after bay filled with lobster boats and buoys.   In short, too much to recall in one post.  So I will just put in a few pictures and hope to give a glimpse of some of the places that stole my heart in Acadia.

house on Frenchman's Bay

house on Frenchman’s Bay

Bubbles pond

Bubbles pond

beach

beach

view from Cadillac Mt.

view from Cadillac Mt.

low tide sunset

low tide sunset

view from my campsite

view from my campsite

Sunset, Frenchman's Bay

Sunset, Frenchman’s Bay

coastline

coastline

The Maine Thing Is…

I’m currently in the northern part of Maine.  In a little town called Jackman, at Moose River Campground.  I’m so far north that it’s only 15 miles to the Canadian border.  It’s a different world up here.  Very peaceful, very beautiful.  Very sparsely populated. It’s also fall in an off-again/on-again kind of way.   A lot of the leaves are already turning.  A couple of the nights have been in the low 50’s, although it’s back in the 80’s today.

the view from my campsite

the view from my campsite

The skies here are incredible, both day and night.  The cloud formations are intense and varied from one part of the sky to the next.   The night sky is the big thing.  Really big.  And really full of stars.  I’ve been in places with low degrees of light pollution before, where the stars really jumped out at you.  But here they are spectacular.  The Milky Way is so intense it almost looks like a stripe of cloud across the heavens.  A couple of nights ago I was standing and staring, trying to get my fill of this incredible sky before heading to bed.   A shooting star blazed across from one side of the horizon to the other like an endless bolt of arrow-straight lightning.    Perfect.

The forests are almost like a movie set.   I’ve seen wooden cut-outs of tall pines with a moose under the trees.   Cutesy stuff for tourists to take home and set on a shelf.    But up here, particularly when the pines are silhouetted against the night sky, it is the cute cut-out brought to life.   The only thing I haven’t seen up here is an actual moose.  I’ve seen dozens of signs warning of moose crossings for the next 10 or 15 miles, but no moose to go with the signs.

ruins in the woods

ruins in the woods

I’ve ridden all over this area on my little motorcycle.  Put at least 250 miles on it, and seen a minimum of a dozen lakes.    Almost seems like more water than land.  Each lake is more beautiful than the last.    Tiny islands dot the waters, brooks while streams and rivers flow into and out of them and criss-cross the land.  The air is heady with the sweet-spicy-fruity smell of the pines.  The white bark of the birches gleams in the sun and lights up sections of the forest.   I’m never in a hurry to get where I’m going.  I might miss something even more breathtaking than the last bit of scenery.

Long Pond lake

Long Pond lake

People in Maine really seem to embrace the outdoors.  Almost every car or truck I see has a canoe, kayak or ATV on it or being towed by it.   Sometimes all three toys at once.   Outdoor sports are big up here, very much a part of everyday life.

stream

stream

The campground I’m in is very quiet.  Last week it was just me and one other person on the other side of the campground.  Then Labor Day weekend came and the place filled to capacity.

I’ve never seen so many ATV’s in my life.  Four-wheel off-road vehicles are a way of life up here, except in winter when it’s snowmobiles.   The trailers hauling the ATV’s were often larger than the camper or trailer the people were staying in for the weekend.    If it was mom and dad and two teens, then there were at least three (if not four) ATV’s.

People from Maine go to bed early (lights out by 9 PM for the most part) and get up early too.  All to have more time driving their ATVs on the ubiquitous off-road tracks.  I think there are more trails for off-road riding than there are roads for cars and trucks.   People from the campground would head out after breakfast and not return until dark, or after, covered in mud.   They all seemed to have a wonderful time at it, but I prefer my pursuits a little tamer and a lot quieter!

But once they all headed out for the day, peace once again reigned in the campground.   Now it’s Monday, and almost everyone is gone again.  It’s just me and the birds and insects.   And one guy on the other side of the campground.   I suspect there are a lot of other critters out there too (I’ve seen a lot of porcupine road-kill…), but they’re very shy.

grasshopper

grasshopper

I leave here tomorrow to head to Bangor for shopping and restocking, then it’s on to Acadia National Park.  But I’m going to miss the peacefulness of this place.  It has been a pleasure.

campground pond falls

campground pond falls

 

 

Fungi, flowers and Other Life Forms

This is a quickie post about things that live in the woods, etc.   I was in a campground last week in Vermont where it rained the first 5 days I was there.  After which all these wild and wonderful things sprung up out of the soil.   I took the second dry day to document a few of them.   Which is what this is about, along with a couple of flowers and a delicious damselfly that I clicked a pic of about a month ago.

frog in a puddle

frog in a puddle

damsel fly

damsel fly

fung2fung3

unknown flower

unknown flower

phlox, pale pink

phlox, pale pink

The red ones were really tiny, the little one in the front is less than 1/4 inch tall.

pretty reds

pretty reds

The white ones with the “petals” were hard to photograph as they were translucent and the camera couldn’t seem to focus on them…it kept trying to see through them.fung10fung8fung9fung7

The yellow ones were actually a bright lemon yellow, but it doesn’t show because they were in such deep shade.fung6fung5

Back in the Harness Again

When I was in Florida last winter, I met someone who was semi-retired from building and maintaining horse racing tracks.   He was still working in the field as a consultant during the harness racing season in New York and New Jersey.   He told me that if I was ever in New Jersey to give him a call and he could set me up with a place for my RV while I was seeing the area.  So when I hit NJ, I called.

The end result of that call was my spending two weeks at the Meadowlands track in NJ and a week at the historic track in Goshen, NY.   During that time I managed to learn quite a bit about the sport of harness racing.   (I also spent three days exploring New York City, since Meadowlands is located just across the river from the city.  Just a short bus ride and there I was.)

and they're off!

and they’re off!

I had a wonderful time just watching and learning at each of the tracks.  I still don’t have any interest in following the sport or betting on the races, but I do love learning new things.  And all of what I learned was new to me!  Things like how the track is maintained before and during the races. Along with the various types of equipment used on the track and the horses, the difference between trotting and pacing (gaits used by the horses, differentiated by how the horse moves its legs.)   Along with what the various abbreviations on the racing form meant, etc.  It was a lot to take in but great fun in that I got to learn something that I had previously known absolutely nothing about.

heading for the finish line

heading for the finish line

feel that stretch?

feel that stretch?

pacer

pacer

trotter

trotter

Meadowlands racetrack is in East Rutherford, NJ next to the Metlife stadium and a couple of other entertainment venues.  The New Jersey state fair started its run at the fairgrounds while I was there, so I also got to take a stroll down memory lane–to all the Los Angeles county fairs I attended with my family as a child.   The bright lights, rides and impossible games brought back all the fun I had on those childhood midways.   A big plus for me was being able to indulge my love of riding Ferris wheels.  This fair had a couple of big ones that gave a great view of the surrounding area, including the New York City skyline, all lit up and shining in the night.

warming up

warming up

After I had been in NJ for a couple of weeks, my friend had to go up to Goshen, NY to work at the historic racetrack up there, over the 4th of July week.   I tagged along and he got me a spot to park my RV at that beautiful old track.   Harness racing has been taking place on this site since 1801, so there’s a “bit” of history to the place.   There’s also an excellent harness racing museum on the grounds and I spent a leisurely afternoon perusing all it had to offer.

after the race

after the race

Another finish in sight

Another finish in sight

Harness racing museum

Harness racing museum

museum sign

museum sign

historic Goshen track

historic Goshen track

The town of Goshen, NY is small, sleepy and packed full of history, like the place where Noah Webster (the guy who compiled our first dictionary) taught school and a bunch of other stuff.  I met a lot of` people who raise, train and own the harness horses, along with those in some of the support industries.   With a big plus being that almost everyone I met were really nice people.webster sign

marker at the Goshen track

marker at the Goshen track

town hall

town hall

fountain in town

fountain in town

Hopefully, I’ll get around to the post about NYC soon, but I had to get this one up because it was just such a great experience learning about something that I had never been exposed to before.   With the plus of how graceful and beautiful these animals can be.  A big “thank you” goes out to all the people I met who shared their knowledge with me during this little part of my journey.

 

 

Ms Barbara Goes to Washington

I  went to Washington DC. Not for the first time, but for a longer visit. My first visit was just a “passing thru” type thing where I only had about 3 hours to see what I could. This time I spent three days exploring the city, which isn’t enough time to see much, actually. This visit was dedicated to taking my husband’s ashes to the Wall (Vietnam Memorial) and seeing as much of the Smithsonian museums as I could. I’ve been a member for years, I figured I would go visit the place my money’s been going all this time.

Jim and Jimmy together again

Jim and Jimmy together again

VN nurses memorial

VN nurses memorial

I stayed at Duncan’s Family Campground, which is well outside the city, but which has a daily shuttle service to the metro station. It’s a nice enough campground, a little rustic, which I don’t mind at all. But the showers in the area I was in could have stood better cleaning. So I only used them once. (I stayed in a site with only water and electricity to save money.) Turns out that the guy who regularly cleans them was on his day off. I’m assuming that he does a better job than the back-up guy, who cleaned 8 showers in under 10 minutes. I don’t think that even qualifies as a lick-and-a-promise….

reflecting pool

reflecting pool

Anyway, it was pretty and, for east coast prices, reasonable. The shuttle service was $8 per day with a very friendly driver who knew his stuff. I bought a metro card that could be reloaded with $$ as I used it. I should have been able to travel for half-price (offered to seniors and disabled), but it turned out that only seniors (over 65) could purchase that card at the main station. The disabled have to change trains, then walk two or three blocks to the main metro office and apply there. Then they wait for their card to be mailed. Oh goody. And only during certain hours and days. I paid full-fare as I didn’t have a day to waste jumping through hoops. Wonder how well this system works for those in wheelchairs? Or missing legs, or ??? OK, end of rant.

Smithsonian rose garden

Smithsonian rose garden

young boy at Lincoln memorial

young boy at Lincoln memorial

detail panel WW II memorial

detail panel WW II memorial

Smithsonian castle from rear

Smithsonian castle from rear

The first day was dedicated to getting Jim’s ashes to the wall, and the panel with Jimmy Elder’s name on it. Jimmy was Jim’s best bud in ‘Nam. He died while Jim was in the hospital with his second case of malaria. And Jim never forgave himself for not being there for him. Now they’re together again. After the visit to the wall, I walked to the various memorials that surround the reflecting pool then had lunch from one of the many food trucks in the area. After that, it was off to the air and space museum.

the wall

the wall

he Air and Space Museum is one of many Smithsonian museums in DC (and elsewhere). It was crowded, noisy and fascinating. I ducked into one of the IMAX movies (there were several different ones to choose from) on the Hubble telescope. There was great footage of the repairs and updates to the telescope taken from the shuttle during the missions. Plus lots of background and images from the telescope itself. So ended day one.space musspace mus2

Airline uniforms from the 1960's

Airline uniforms from the 1960’s

lunar lander

lunar lander

Air and Space museum

Air and Space museum

The second day was given over to art. The Sackler, Hirshhorn, Freer Gallery, etc. with a quick visit to the natural history museum and another IMAX movie, this one on Jerusalem. Which was really, really interesting. Another place I need to visit. The Freer Gallery had some really interesting ancient sculpture, including a life-size metal figure whose robe had all the detail to make it look like brocade fabric. Hundreds of years old. Just amazing. Plus there was a big display of Whistler’s art, particularly pieces from his Nocturne series.

Room

Room

Sculpture detail

Sculpture detail

A Whistler nocturne

A Whistler nocturne

Then I took a day to let my feet and legs recover. It’s a lot of walking seeing all that stuff.

I went back on Sunday for a trip to the American history museum. Talk about a lot of stuff packed into one building! From the original Star Spangled Banner (which is kept in a very dimly lit room, no pictures allowed, even without flash), to the lunch counter from Woolworths made so famous during the civil rights movement to a pair of “ruby” slippers from the Wizard of Oz and Lincoln’s top hat. The place covers a lot of ground.rocks4

carved topaz crystal

carved topaz crystal

rocks2

pretty rocks

pretty rocks

There was still so much to see, but I was just too tired to do it. Maybe I’ll catch some of it on my way back south this fall. Who knows?

big spider

big spider

lunch counter

lunch counter

robe detail, solid metal made to look like fabric

robe detail, solid metal made to look like fabric

Last Train to Parksville (TN)….and Ohio

OK, I admit it, I’m lazy. I’m having entirely too much fun. Life on the road is sweet. There is so much beauty around every corner that I’m finding it hard to edit the photos and get these posts up. By the time a week passes I can easily have taken over 100 pictures and visited half a dozen places that took my breath away. So how do I possibly keep up? I’m starting to realize that it just isn’t possible. So, but for a few exceptions, I’m not even going to try. Posts like this one that hit the highlights of several places I’ve been are likely to become the norm.

Of course, I may change my mind about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here’s some of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen:
First stop–Parksville Lake campground, Tennessee. This one was the termination of a long, somewhat-white-knuckle drive to reach. The campground is near one end of a long, sinuous canyon. Unfortunately I started from the far end. So 40 or 50 miles of two-lane highway that snaked along a cliff-face on one side, gray rock wall soaring higher than I could see in many places. (Taking the time to look up could easily have resulted in a fatality, me or someone else…) The other side of the road, the on-coming lane side, there was a river. A beautiful, raucous, meandering, narrow, white-water river that widened into a series of lakes along the route. Until the canyon narrowed again and the river re-formed.

There were no passing lanes on the road, but not a lot of steep grade either. What there were were curves. Lots of curves, “S”, switchbacks, wicked bends that repeated many times per mile. Most were marked with a speed limit of 30 mph down to 15 mph. To add to the fun, semis also use this route. And they’re always in a hurry. If I kept my eyes on the road I could keep to a speed that wouldn’t tick off those drivers, but I want to actually SEE the country. And there was almost no place on the road with an area to pull over large enough for my RV. Which means I also didn’t get any pictures. I do plan to go back to the area again. It was too beautiful for so short a stay.

There were two campgrounds in the area I was headed for. The lower one is very small, probably less than 25 sites. The upper one is much larger, but I didn’t get that far. The small one is several miles closer to the road I had been on. And it was almost empty when I got there. The sites were flat. There was electricity and a nice restroom and shower house. The setting was fabulous, with a little stream off to one side and lots of spring flowers in bloom. Squaw root, wild geraniums, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Carolina Silver Bells, foam flower, dogwood, iris and many more that I don’t know the names of.

tiny flowers each less than 1/4 inch across

tiny flowers each less than 1/4 inch across

some kind of lily

some kind of lily

Carolina silver bells

Carolina silver bells

Jack-in-the-pulpit

Jack-in-the-pulpit

foam flower

foam flower

The second day there, I hiked up to Rainbow falls with the couple that were the camp hosts. Nice people. It had rained for a couple of days before I got there and stream below the falls was high. In two areas where you can usually cross on rocks it was easier just to wade. At least for me. Less chance of falling and dunking my camera. It was a week before my boots dried. (I forgot that there are two layers of insoles…)

Parksville campground

Parksville campground

rainbow falls

rainbow falls

squaw root

squaw root

Anyway, another great place I have to go back to. From there it was on to Atlanta and Allatoona Lake. But that was another post.

From there I went thru KY to visit my ex- mother-in-law’s place. She died while I was in Florida, a couple of days after I had talked to her on the phone and promised to come see her in the spring when I went back north. I felt like I needed to honor the promise to go there.

From there, I spent a couple of weeks in St. Louis before going to the Escapees rally in Goshen, IN.

After I left the rally, I spent a few days at a place called Camp Timberlake in IN. I chose the place because it was closest to a small (very small) town called Roann that I passed through on my way up to Goshen. As I drove through the town the first time, I crossed a bridge that paralleled a broad spillway from a large mill-pond. The restored mill perched alongside. It was so “picture perfect” that I stopped in the middle of the bridge and took a quick picture. Then I promised myself I would come back and actually see the place.

clouds at camp Timberlake

clouds at camp Timberlake

Timberlake was a very nice, but rather expensive (at least as regards what I usually pay) campground. There’s a small lake full of fish, boats and canoes for rent, a new zip line with rope bridges and all kinds of goodies (I’ll pass, my balance isn’t what it used to be), full hook-ups, etc. The owners are really trying to make it something special. The older section of the campground has primitive sites and sites with just water and electric, plus some fulls.

Lake at Timberlake

Lake at Timberlake

Like many campgrounds, it’s peaceful during the week. Not so much on the weekend. I only got the spend the weekend because someone cancelled at the last minute and I had already let the office know that I wanted the first cancellation that came in. I had to move to a different site, but at least I had a site.

I drove back to Roann while I was there, like I had planned. It turned out to be even smaller than I had thought. I went to the covered bridge (1877) first. Cars still use this bridge. It spans the Eel River. Next to it is a quaint little cemetery. I like old graveyards. I like trying to find the oldest dates I can on the headstones. Reading the inscriptions. All that stuff. Peaceful. Also a great spot to take pictures of the bridge from.

spillway at mill

spillway at mill

I talked to a couple of women who were out walking (residents of the town.) From them I learned about a diner in town where I got a great BLT and vanilla shake for a very reasonable price. Then I went next door to an antique store and found an inlaid wood serving tray that was the perfect size to become a cabinet door in the bedroom for only $16.00. (I removed the bedroom TV and turned its “hole” into storage) It’s a little rustic but with quite a bit of detail and the price was right. I strapped it to the back of the bike and went out to the old mill.

view of bridge from graveyard

view of bridge from graveyard

Stockdale mill

Stockdale mill

It’s very picturesque. I wish I could have seen the inside of the place, but it turned out to only be open on Saturday. I was there on Friday. Oh well, the pictures of the outside are nice.

bridge inside, detail

bridge inside, detail

inside bridge

inside bridge

Roann bridge

Roann bridge

From Roann the next stop was Berlin Lake in Ohio. Another Corps of Engineers campground, older than most of the others I have stayed at, so more rustic and in need of TLC. But again, beautiful. Huge lake. Without a power boat of some kind I don’t know how you could see it all. I took my new kayak on her maiden voyage there. It’s the two piece unit I bought in St. Louis. Swedish design. Snaps together and is very sturdy. Has inflatable lumbar support in the seat back and foot controlled rudder. Very sweet. It was windy the day I took it out. Just a little pressure with the proper foot and I was always headed in the direction I wanted to go without having to paddle extra strokes to compensate for the off-course push of the wind.

blowing bubbles ...

blowing bubbles …

rhododendron

rhododendron

small part of the campground

small part of the campground

sunset, part two

sunset, part two

lake sunset

lake sunset

Home at Berlin Lake

Home at Berlin Lake

I had a great visit there, then headed for PA, on my way to Washington DC.

A Sojourn in the Garden

Stepping back in time again for a little catch-up. This time we’re heading back to Georgia and a “little” place called Gibbs Gardens. This is actually someone’s home but the guy owns a big landscaping company and he decided to use the acreage around his house to showcase what his company (and a whole lot of money) could do.

garden entrance

garden entrance

entrance detail

entrance detail

 

The place is situated amidst rolling hills about an hour north of Atlanta. There are spring-fed streams and ponds abounding along with a replica of Monet’s famous bridge, featured in so many of his works. Also lots of sculpture, statuary and artwork incorporated as design elements.

bridge close-up

bridge close-up

Monet bridge

Monet bridge

pond reflections

pond reflections

When I was there the majority of the daffodils had just finished blooming (some 50 acres worth…) but the late-blooming varieties were still flush on top of a hill above all the spent blooms. If I ignored the fact that I had missed the largest part of the display, they were still pretty impressive. Definitely worth the hike up the hill.

daffodils

daffodils

daffodils2daffodilsThe gardens have 14 different festivals, or seasons, including cherry blossom, azalea, hydrangea, waterlily, daylily and rose. I guess if you live close enough you could catch them all. Since I was there in mid-April there weren’t a lot of things in bloom. Primarily just pansies, daffodils, a few azaleas, some dogwoods and other odds and ends of early season flowers. There are also a lot of Japanese maples on the grounds which add color with their red leaves.sculpture3

Flowers in the Japanese garden

Flowers in the Japanese garden

a pond

a pond

I wish the waterlilies had been in bloom. The ponds would have been spectacular. I spent about three hours wandering the grounds and investigating the various sections. The Japanese gardens and the areas around the main house were especially note-worthy. Guests at the garden are welcome to walk around the house and even relax on the chairs around the pool.sculpturesculpture2

path to house

path to house

nice gate

nice gate

I made a stop at the cafe near the entrance as I was preparing to leave and had a lovely lunch. The chicken salad on some kind of cherry or cranberry (I can’t recall exactly) and nut bread was excellent. The place covers about 220 acres, so a little nourishment before continuing my drive was definitely in order.

Japanese garden

Japanese garden

azaleas

azaleas

I walked through the gift shop as I was leaving and found a replacement for a favorite hat I used to wear all the time when kayaking that had faded and started to fall apart and thus had been dumped in the great purge of all the “stuff” I used to own. This one is the same color (turquoise) as my old one and almost identical in style. An excellent ending to a lovely visit.

 

Gosh and by Golly, It’s Goshen

I went to my first RV rally. I am, by nature, a bit of a loner. Gregarious, outgoing, sure. But I am very comfortable in my own skin and like my quiet-and-alone time. So I tend to avoid large gatherings as tiring and unnecessarily stressful. Too many people, too much going on. But for this event I made an exception. The exception was made because the group putting on the rally, Escapees, starts their annual gathering with a two-and-a-half day “RV Boot Camp”. I’ve always felt that more knowledge in any area that impacts my life is a good thing, so I signed up. Besides, you never know what you don’t know until you find out you didn’t know it, right?

I didn’t have any idea how much knowledge was about to be shoveled into my brain in a relatively short period of time. But shovel it in they did. In mass quantities. There was so much data that by the time the class ended I could barely remember what the earlier sessions had covered. Fortunately, as time has passed (along with the exhaustion that built up during the long days), the information began resurfacing. It wasn’t lost, just buried under all the stuff that was stuffed into my brain later. ( I also have everything that was covered in the classes on DVD and in print format. The DVD was part of the course materials. The book I purchased on my own. I find that I learn better from the printed word than from videos.)

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Before attending the boot camp I was truly “blissfully ignorant”. Ignorant of the dangers built into each RV by an industry apparently far more concerned with profit margins than by keeping their customer base alive. After the classes I ended up spending $1500 on safety equipment for my rig. Equipment that, for the most part, should have been part of the RV when it was built. Example: if you wake up to your smoke alarm screaming and see that your RV is on fire, you have roughly 20 seconds (or less) to exit said RV. But the smoke detectors that are routinely installed in RVs, the same smoke detectors that are used in regular houses, aren’t sufficient for RVs. (Not really so great in your house, either.)

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There are two types of technology that can be used in smoke detectors. The ones that most people buy, the ones that everyone assumes are “good enough”, really aren’t. It can take hours for them to sound when materials are smouldering. Meanwhile, fumes are building up to deadly levels, but they don’t go off because there aren’t any flames. Maybe you can get away with that in a house, where you have multiple exit points, but not in an RV.

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In an RV, when you are in bed, if you wake up to find your “house” in flames, you have one way out. Through your bedroom “escape hatch” window. The window is usually about 24″ x 24″, has nothing to hold it open, a sharp metal edge that you will have to slide over on your stomach and a drop to the ground of six to eight feet. A smoke detector with dual technology, one that will let you know there’s a problem while you’ve still got a fighting chance of getting out, costs a little more and isn’t required by the government, so they aren’t used by the RV industry. (Don’t get me started on fire extinguishers!)

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That’s just one example of the many things I learned during the course of which I was heretofore blissfully ignorant. It was so much more fun not knowing what I didn’t know, until I knew it and had to do something about it. But hey, the “somethings” are done now and I can go back to just having fun. And maybe stay alive longer if something does go wrong.

just a few more RV's

just a few more RV’s

Right now that “fun” consists of donating everything I haven’t used at least once in the past six months to charity. Because of the other thing I found out. After having my RV weighed, I now know that if I want to carry any water with me, I have to dump weight somewhere else. My RV is on a diet. It needs to lose about 600 pounds. And that’s if I only want to carry half a tank of water. Since I boondock a lot, carrying water is mandatory. Flushing the toilet, brushing my teeth, taking the occasional shower, all these things require water.

The row I was in

The row I was in

As boot camp was ending, everyone else arrived. A total of 543 RV’s in attendance. From little A-frame pop-ups, mini Airstream trailers (I hadn’t seen one that small before!), giant fifth wheels to custom jobs. Semi tractors pressed into service by RV’ers are becoming very common. Some the of 5th wheels are so big that there just isn’t any other way to haul them. And the class A’s (like mine) are getting so tall (mine is just under 12 feet, short by today’s standards) that they will have a hard time visiting the east coast where many bridges and underpasses won’t accommodate them.

Just something to haul toys with

Just something to haul toys with

Also custom jobs built with a semi tractor for the front end, a frame attached to it and an RV built on that. I saw one at the event, the second one I’ve seen. And the second one that was really ugly, to me at least. Battleship gray and looking a lot like a tank. Maybe it’s just the artist in me, but if I were to spend that kind of money, I’d want something that didn’t look like a military vehicle…..and as ugly as only the military can make ’em. The first one I saw was painted pea soup green. Not a big improvement.

It's an RV...or maybe a tank

It’s an RV…or maybe a tank

By the way, the few pictures I took don’t begin to show just how packed the fairgrounds were once we were all in. It rained for four days after the boot camp ended (and I had some free time), so the pictures didn’t get taken until people had started to leave. (Imagine every empty space you see filled with another RV…) The horse racing track became so soft and muddy that those who were camped on the infield couldn’t get out. The first RV that tried to leave got stuck. A wrecker was called to pull them out, but it got stuck and had to call a second wrecker to pull it out! After that, people on the infield were given a free day of camping so that the track could dry out enough that they could cross it.

one of many rows

one of many rows

I did spend quite a bit of time attending seminars on other aspects of the RV lifestyle. There were seminars on all kinds of things, including various crafts that you could learn (something to do at night in the campground), plus jam sessions for those that played instruments, entertainment each night, etc.

just a few friends....

just a few friends….

I met a lot of really nice people and had a great time, but when it all ended I was ready to spend some time alone just resting. Which is sort of what I did. Alone, in a Lowes parking lot, waiting for Monday to arrive so that I could get a tire problem fixed that I didn’t know I had, until the tire pressure monitoring system I bought at the rally told me. Lucky for me it was a valve stem extender (the thing that allows one to put air in the inside tire on a set of duals without having to crawl under the RV…or remove the outside tire for access!) problem, not an actual tire problem. Truck tires are mondo expensive…and on an RV you have to replace two if one goes bad. It’s a safety issue. Duals must be matched for time in service and wear, unless you don’t mind another tire going south at an inopportune moment.

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But I’m back on the road now. And who knows? Maybe I’ll actually get these posts caught up….yeah, right…..